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FICTION

Pea Pod Lullaby

illus. by Stephen Michael King. 40p. Candlewick. Dec. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536201970.
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Gr 1–4—A woman, her infant, young daughter, and dog travel across the sea in a small boat bearing a single patched sail. The spread on the copyright and title pages, however, reveals that this is not a pleasure trip. With a fire-red sky and black billows bursting behind them, the family runs along a barbed wire fence through the night to a cliff's edge and into their boat. Poetic triplets that express the children's vulnerability and confidence in their parent's protection accompany their journey. "I am the drifting boat/you are the quiet deep/buoy me." "I am the falling star/you are the wishful hands/catch me." Their rescue of an imaginary polar bear along the way further emphasizes that the woman will safeguard those in her care. This collaboration of Millard's lyrical text with King's striking watercolor-and-ink illustrations was originally part of Australia's Manning Regional Art Gallery's Wall Project. Long brush strokes of gray-black color sweep across each spread, and black even appears beneath the ocean blue. Only when the bear is rescued does the sky give way to bright yellow and, finally, to light blue and white as the family disembarks on what is hoped to be a friendly shore. The final words, "I/you/we," and an image of Earth likely implies global connection.
VERDICT Though the sophisticated and ambiguous text makes "lullaby" a misnomer, this is, nevertheless, a powerful catalyst for discussions of war and its consequences and for ways to help those in need. Best shared one-on-one.

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