To the Sea

illus. by Cale Atkinson. 48p. Disney-Hyperion. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484708132.
PreS-Gr 2—Tim is on his way home from school one rainy, dark day when he meets Sam, a big blue whale who made a wrong turn and got stuck in his neighborhood. It's very dark, and the other kids in the neighborhood can't see Sam. Indeed, he is virtually hidden on the pages, deep sea green against a dark blue-black background. Sam is metaphorically a fish out of water, and so is Tim. Sometimes the boy feels like no one notices him. But seeing each other, "they both felt better knowing they weren't invisible," and they become friends. Tim brings Sam some water and promises to help him get back to the sea. It takes lots of planning, but Tim is determined to help because "friends don't let friends down." After reviewing the plans together, they decide to use Tim's bike to tug Sam back to the ocean. It was hard work, but Tim "should not…could not…would not let his friend down." Ultimately, Tim is successful, splashing and crashing deep into the ocean. Sam is nowhere to be seen, but only for a moment. He returns to Tim, now safe on a buoy, and delivers a friendly kiss because "friends don't let friends down." In the last scene, there is a pictorial hint that Tim will be making a new (human) friend as he comes ashore. In addition, the mood of the illustrations changes from dark and moody to sunshine bright. The cartoonlike pictures are rendered in acrylics with digital enhancement, primarily in dark greens and oranges until the final panels.
VERDICT An unusual and appealing story about friendship, though better suited for larger collections.

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