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Monday, August 2, 2010

The Serpent Came to Gloucester: Book Nook Breakdown

The Serpent Came to Gloucester
Written by M.T. Anderson
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (May 10, 2005)
ISBN: 978-0763620387
Buy This Book on Amazon: The Serpent Came to Gloucester

Today's selection is M.T. Anderson's lyrical masterpiece, The Serpent Came to Gloucester, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

STORY
The book narrates the 1817 instance of a reported sea serpent spotted of the coast of Massachusetts from the eyes of a local boy.

WRITING
Anderson is a varied and prolific writer of everything from picture books to novels, and never fails to deliver well-thought and articulate writing. His poetic song-like refrains are both simplistic and sophisticated and set a mysterious and haunting tone for this story.

ILLUSTRATIONS
The writing is complemented perfectly by Bagaram Ibatoulline's illustrations inspired by 19th century maritime paintings. He succeeds in creating a beautiful and believable environment while still retaining a warmth that makes this world inviting and his characters friendly. It has a realistic feel but his people are just stylized enough to make them relatable. And even under the threat of a massive beast lurking in the water, he manages to keep us feeling safe. He is truly a master of his craft. It serves to remind me how to successfully draw from historical references to inform and inspire a befitting look and feel to a story.

OVERALL
From a design/visual standpoint, this is one of my top children's books of all time. Beautiful pictures, intriguing story, good use of pacing the between single and double page spreads, elegant and unobtrusive typeface and spacing, integrated endpapers--the entire package is a work of art. Candlewick Press truly delivers standout picture books. One of my favorite touches is that removing the dust jacket reveals the hard cover aesthetic of a distressed old book. I love little surprises like that.

This is everything that I personally admire in well-told and well-crafted kidlit.

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