cover image To the Sea

To the Sea

Cale Atkinson. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4847-0813-2

Atkinson debuts with a moody but reassuring story about a boy who feels invisible until he befriends Sam, a lost whale. No Free Willy–style orca, the whale that Tim discovers outside his school one rainy day is a hulking sea-green behemoth. While Atkinson hits the story’s themes of loneliness and friendship a bit hard (“The other kids were too busy to notice the big blue whale. Sometimes Tim felt no one noticed him either”), his illustrations—and their eye-popping marigold and teal palette—will make readers sit up and take notice. In a vibrant orange raincoat, Tim is a spot of bright color amid the torrential downpours of his neighborhood; indoor scenes are colored in golden hues, creating an intense warmth that echoes Tim’s rising spirits as he debates how to transport Sam to the sea. His solution—pulling Sam behind his bicycle—leads to a frightening climax in which Tim nearly drowns, but the whale mounts a quick rescue, and a sunny closing scene suggests that Tim’s next friend might be human, not cetacean. Ages 3–5. (May)