The Immortal Jellyfish

Flying Eye. Aug. 2019. 40p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781911171799.
K-Gr 3– A magical dream voyage begins with a drawing pad shared by a boy and his grandfather. On the left side, the boy’s small hands are sketching a fish onto a sheet already filled with an underwater scene featuring a decorative jellyfish. Across the page, an adult hand sketches small jellyfish on a blank sheet. Grandpa asks,“Have you ever heard of the jellyfish that lives forever?” He explains that the fish is called immortal because “whenever it seems like it is about to die, it starts its life again,” and the boy wonders, “Are we immortal?” Well, no. The boy wishes for more explanation, but after this fine afternoon he doesn’t see Grandpa again. The man has died, and that night, the child cries himself to sleep. Miao’s paintings are at once simple and richly detailed as she sends Grandpa and the boy on a colorful journey. “On the back of a great whale they ride through the big sea-sky.” The two enter a “beautiful world bursting with life.” It’s a dream world, they are told, “where the departed can live through the memories of their loved ones.” The animals here, including humans, get to “choose a new creature to become, who will visit their family and friends in their dreams.” They converse with a man who is choosing to become a fish and a lion choosing to become a cloud. Finally, Grandpa says it’s time for him to choose, and he sends the boy home on the back of a white bird.
VERDICT Empathy and imagination soar in this tale of a special relationship and deftly conceived dreamscape. While not for everyone, this inviting jewel of a book may bring great solace to those experiencing loss.

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