cover image Oil


Jonah Winter, illus. by Jeanette Winter. Beach Lane, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-53

Marking the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, lyrical prose and textured illustrations in layered colors distinguish this picture book treatment of the environmental disaster. Using repetition in both narration and artwork (“From deep inside the earth it comes,/ hot and black, black and hot”), the creators follow the initial extraction of crude oil and its pipeline journey through a fauna-rich wilderness, to the Exxon Valdez’s grounding, spill, and deadly and far-reaching aftermath. Sleek and monochromatic, human-engineered items occur amid land- and seascapes populated with mottled, multihued wildlife—“across what had been/ unspoiled land, home to Native people.” Scenes of rescue workers juxtapose depictions of oil-coated otters (“thousands of them, dead and dying”), underlining the importance of taking action in a calamity. Ending on a cautionary note, the seemingly clean beach is revealed as a deception: “If you lift a rock.../ oil/ seeps/ up.” An author’s note offers more spill facts, touching on culpability and a need for alternative energy sources. With this latest, the mother-son team behind The Secret Project again demonstrates an aptitude for clear and concise storytelling, here around detrimental alterations to the natural landscape. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd. Illustrator’s agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (Mar.)