The Pull of the Ocean

Jean-Claude Mourlevat, Author, Y. Maudet, Translator , trans. from the French by Y. Maudet. Delacorte $15.95 (190p) ISBN 978-0-385-73348-9

A mute 10-year-old boy stars in this inventive modern-day play on Charles Perrault's Tom Thumb. Yann, the size of a toddler, is the youngest of seven sons of poor, sour parents and the only one who is not a twin ("Yann came last and alone. Like the period at the end of a sentence"). The lad silently communicates with his brothers, but never with his parents. One night, he overhears his parents bickering and awakens his siblings, letting them know that their father plans to harm them (the author reveals the actual content of the couple's conversation later). Yann then leads the three sets of twins out into the rainy darkness. The peripatetic story weaves together first-person accounts by each twin as well as individuals who have spotted or interacted with the children. Under Yann's direction (he navigates by turning his head in all directions and then pointing the way), the brothers traverse the French countryside, heading west toward the ocean. The story takes a dark turn before they are reunited with their seemingly softened parents. Yet Yann slips away once more, stowing away on a merchant marine ship to continue his journey west. The captain observes, "I had the sudden impression that this child wasn't real, that he had stepped right out of a fairy tale." Indeed, Mourlevat enchantingly blends the harshly real and the make-believe, with the latter tipping the balance as this effectively haunting, fluidly translated tale comes to a close. Ages 12-up. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 11/01/2006
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FORMATS
Prebound-Glued - 190 pages - 978-0-606-12362-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 190 pages - 978-0-385-73666-4
Library Binding - 190 pages - 978-0-385-90364-6
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