This picture book was number 1 in the New York Times bestseller list some time last year, and that’s why it attracted my attention. I waited and waited for it to be released here, but eventually I gave up and ordered it from the States. I ended up buying it for my collection because it gave me the shivers the first time I read it.
The illustrations are not stunning at first. They are beautiful, but ordinary…or so it seemed to me. Then I started reading it and I was completely captivated by the idea and the magic that springs from its pictures.
It doesn’t have words, which I think it’s one of its charms. It doesn’t need them. It tells the story beautifully without descriptions, just with the flow of its images.
It’s about a boy, who finds a strange camera on a beach, and brings its film to be developed. What he sees in the pictures is the secrets of the underwater world. Incredible photos of walking starfish islands, mechanical fish, little towns made with shellfish built on sea-turtle’s backs, octopuses reading books in living rooms…
But what really made me go “wow!” was the last picture. At a first glance it’s only a girl holding another picture of a boy in her hand. But when examined closely with a magnifying glass and then with a microscope, it shows that the boy in the picture is himself holding a picture, of someone holding a picture, of someone holding a picture…till it reveals a sepia photograph of a boy, probably dating back to the 1920’s, standing on the shore of a beach, somewhere in the world. The underwater camera had travelled the world and time, showing fantastical shots of the mysterious universe beneath the oceans’ surfaces, and every boy or girl who had found the camera had taken a photograph of themselves holding the previous founder’s picture in their hand. Isn’t it an amazing idea? It left me dreaming for a while, thinking of this little object travelling, taking pictures of a world we are only allowed to dream of, and then appearing on beaches, and revealing its secrets.
The story is not only utterly original and compelling. It’s also skilfully illustrated, with deceptively simple watercolours, that unravel like a movie and leaves you breathless. No wonder it’s a Caldecott medal winner.
Recommended to every dreamer and sea-lover across the world.
Visit David Wiesner's publisher's website.
And if you want more reasons to pick up this book, watch the promotional video:)