cover image Fog Island

Fog Island

Tomi Ungerer. Phaidon, $16.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7148-6535-5

Any new book from Ungerer is a cause for celebration, and this one offers a particularly enticing blend of mystery and magic. Siblings Finn and Cara live “by the sea in the back of beyond” with their parents, and the book’s early scenes offer homey details of the family’s poor but happy life in what is presumably Ireland (to which the book is dedicated). The children’s father makes them a small boat, a curragh, warning them to steer clear of Fog Island, “a doomed and evil place.” Of course, that’s exactly where the children end up. Surreal, mist-shrouded images build a sense of strangeness and tension. Tall anthropomorphic rocks flank a winding staircase, peering at the children suspiciously, and green skeletal arms cling to the door at the top of the stairs, where the children are greeted by a “wizened old man,” who shares some of the island’s secrets while leaving them with new questions. It’s the kind of classic adventure that allows children to triumph over convention and common sense, threaded with peculiar imagery and unknowable mysteries that linger in the imagination. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)