cover image The Elephant and the Sea

The Elephant and the Sea

Ed Vere. Doubleday, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-525-58090-4

This affectionately swashbuckling work by Vere (The Artist) doesn’t start out sounding like a heroic tale as Gabriel, an elderly elephant (“His knees crack. His back creaks”) looks out over the harbor of a small fishing village, remembering. As a young elephant, Gabriel is smitten with the lifeboat and the animal crew that rows it. “Heave away, haul away, heave-HO!” they sing, and he longs to go with them. “Come back when you’re older,” they say. But when he’s fully grown, he dwarfs their boat (“Heave-ho. Oh no”). Gabriel is determined: “There is only one thing I want to do.... So I will do it!” He collects driftwood, builds a lifeboat of his own, and when disaster strikes, he’s ready. In Vere’s spreads, Gabriel and other scratchy-lined animal characters have the look of friendly animation; by contrast, sea scenes drawn with charged ink lines pulse with energy against stormy gray backdrops. It’s not a tale of injustice redressed: Gabriel is so gentle, and the lifeboat crew so grateful, that only joy lingers as the elephant finds a way to do what he loves, and comes away with marvelous stories to tell. Ages 3–7. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (May)