cover image Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee

Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee

Chris Van Dusen, Chronicle Books, Chris Van Dusen. Chronicle Books, $14.95 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2499-6

A chrome kitchen table, a buttercream-yellow Studebaker and other campy 1950s accessories distinguish this ebullient picture book. At daybreak, Mr. Magee, sporting a spiffy straw boater, and his black-and-white beagle, Dee, pack a picnic basket and drive to the seaside. They hop into their red-and-silver motorboat and putter across a hyper-blue ocean, past rocky islands that suggest the Maine coastline. As they admire a pod of whales in the distance, a stray baby whale grows curious. ""From under the sea the little whale spied/ Magee and Dee's boat--but not them inside./ He longed for adventure. He wanted to play./ So he bumped at the boat in a most friendly way."" Van Dusen (illus. of Silas, the Bookstore Cat) radically shifts perspective from spread to spread. Readers get a bird's-eye view of the boat with the immense whale below it, a lobster's-eye view of the whale beneath the tiny boat and a breathtaking close-up of Magee and Dee, who are airborne when the whale spouts a plume of water. The narrative bounces along on merrily measured meter, which maintains a lighthearted mood as the other whales get Magee and Dee out of trouble. The story ends at nightfall, with the sailors back on dry land. Van Dusen's exacting verse and kitschy, perfectionistic gouaches make this one whale of a tale. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)