Reminiscent of David Wiesner’s Flotsam and Irene Haas’s The Maggie B, Nolan’s enchanting artwork creates a gorgeous, wordless nautical fantasy infused with the thrill of life-or-death adventure. On a cloudless day at the beach, a girl builds a sand castle that, as the sun sets, is overtaken by the tide; readers soon see a puzzling glow of light in one of the castle’s windows, where a family appears to be stranded. Nolan (The Skywriter) portrays the Lilliputian family’s fraught journey in a series of luminous double-page scenes, as they navigate roiling, sea-green waves in a crude boat, with a seagull as their guide. When a boy is washed overboard, he is in danger of being eaten by a magnificent orange fish until he is rescued by childlike mermaids, who are joined by equally delicate seahorses. The family finds refuge on a rocky island where Nolan offers paintings of shells and starfish as beautiful as they are accurate. The girl returns to the beach the next day, builds another castle, and the cycle begins anew. Readers will never look at the beach the same way. Ages 3–7. (Oct.)
Kids drawn to the mystical minieature possibilities of the Borrower-esque in dollhouses and such will immediately appreciate the possibilities here.” BCCB
“Children will love to pore over the illustrations, compare the two castles, the night skies, and the two views of the rocky cove, and wonder whether the new castle will withstand the night's waves.” School Library Journal
“One thing's certain: It's magic.” Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“Nolan's enchanting artwork creates a gorgeous, wordless nautical fantasy infused with the thrill of life-or-death adventure.” Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“In an ode to the beauty and mystery of the sea through imaginative storytelling and stunning art, Nolan allows readers to feel as if they are experiencing this dream-world firsthand.” Horn Book Magazine
PreS-Gr 4—With a seagull watching, a young brown-skinned girl in a bathing suit builds a sandcastle with several round turrets. After she leaves at dusk, the tide comes in, a tower light illumines, and tiny inhabitants, perhaps three generations of a family, appear in a window and escape into the sea as the castle crumbles. The watercolors are so deeply and expertly layered that the art looks like oil, and rendered so accurately, it almost looks real. Children will be intrigued by the interconnections in this wordless fantasy about survival. A young boy is tossed from the boat, rides a sea horse, and is rescued by mermaids, and the small people moor in a cove after a tumultuous night at sea. One spread shows a close-up of the figures (shorter than starfish arms) unloading the cargo among tide-pool shells, seaweed, and sea urchins, and the next zooms out to show the seagull's nest on the rocks and one small person feeding a baby gull. Next morning the girl creates a second, imperfect castle built with an eye to the waves. Red skies harbor good tidings for this night's inhabitants. Children will love to pore over the illustrations, compare the two castles, the night skies, and the two views of the rocky cove, and wonder whether the new castle will withstand the night's waves.—Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
A girl leaves her sandcastle at dusk, just as the inevitable tide rushes in, and misses a small, plaintive light that appears in its window. Rushes of tingly surrealism continue throughout this wordless adventure story about the tiny inhabitants of the sandcastle, who escape by boat.
Double-page spreads immerse readers in a fantastical world studded with gem-like pleasures: Miniature mermaids frolic with seahorses, the shipwrecked family forage among towering seashells, starfish and seaweed, their washed-up girl feeds a seagull baby, standing on tippy-toes to reach its beak. While much Thumbelinan pleasure comes from watching the minute creatures navigate our suddenly gigantic world, even more riveting interplay occurs among characters of equal proportion. Arms strain from boat to boy as he's thrown into the waves and his hands stretch to meet them—from way across the opposite page; a mermaid clutches his shoulders as he descends, locking eyes and leaving him in open-mouthed shock. These striking, imaginative scenes, rendered in a pleasingly realistic style, make for a magical read. Children will surely shout, "Cool!" many times reading such a cinematic, arresting picture book, but they will also diligently peruse the richly detailed illustrations that ultimately make this modern fairy-folk tale so engaging. And then there's its embedded question, one as slippery as a fish and as old as the ocean: Was it all a dream or real?
One thing's certain: It's magic. (Picture book. 4-10)