Dogs and children have notable activities in common. They love to sprint when they should walk. They refuse to move when they should dash. They like to dig in the dirt and sand. They like to walk through and roll around in mud. They are constantly searching for the perfect stone or rock. One of the most puzzling things is their attraction to water, rain, snow, streams, or lakes, but the merest mention of bath time has them seeking the ultimate hidden nook, far removed from the tub.
When respected and gifted creators successfully collaborate and return, readers rejoice. The first title, Bedtime for Sweet Creatures (Sourcebooks, Jabberwocky, January 14, 2020) written by Nikki Grimes with pictures by Elizabeth Zunon, portrays the nighty ritual of a patient parent persuading a reluctant child to go to bed. In their second book, Off to See the Sea (Sourcebooks, Jabberwocky, January 12, 2021), a child is coaxed into a watery excursion extraordinaire.
I whisper in your ear.
Those words send the laughing child scampering to hide. Not to be deterred, their mother invites them to a wondrous place. Here a waterfall flows from the faucet.
The child is lifted and placed into the newly formed sea. Mother shouts out a warning. There might be monsters. Is that a rubber ducky on the loose?
Squeals and splashes blend. The child grasps their nose and disappears beneath the surface. What will they find? Two tugboats, a gift from daddy, carry mother and child safely over wild waves.
Bubbles still bounce on the surface as a special, floating book is read. In the blink of an eye the pulled plug supplies an exit for the special, daily realm. A new routine causes giggles and squirms. A trio wanders from the room, all knowing the adventure will begin anew soon.
The everyday becomes enchanting through the masterful writing of Nikki Grimes. She opens the doors of our minds inviting us to swim, dive, sail, and savor the sea found in our imaginations. Her lyrical descriptions using alliteration supply us with a joyful cadence. The inclusion of the mother's dialogue makes the story more personal, generating a connection to readers' real-life experiences. Here is a passage.
Then down, down you go,
"Now, was that so bad?" I ask.
You play pretend and sniffle.
When you look at the matching and open dust jacket and book case, you are greeted with a burst of vibrant color. Bubbles rise from the waterfall forming from the faucet. The child is no longer hiding, but ready to move into the sea scene. This image, on the right, front, of the jacket and case, is a combination of reality and nightly, motherly inventiveness. To the left, on the back, we move closer to elements from the story. There are bubbles, tiny fish, another jellyfish, starfish, a crab, shells, flowers, a toy boat, the yellow rubber ducky, and a sandcastle with a shovel and pail next to it. The shade of color for the canvas is the same on the front and back. Certain elements on the front and back are varnished. The first sentence from the book is shown on the back.
On the opening and closing endpapers is a collage of patterned papers. They are layered in horizontal rows like waves rolling in from the sea. On the title page, the yellow rubber ducky is resting on the "A" in SEA. To the left of the text is the empty white bathtub.
was created using oil and acrylic paint with cut paper collage, marker, and gel pen
by the excellent Elizabeth Zunon. Each item is placed with care on each page on carefully selected backgrounds. The pictures span two pages, edge to edge except for the first and last images on single pages. On these visuals Elizabeth Zunon employs a variety of perspectives, enhancing the pacing of the narrative. The facial expressions on the mother's, father's, and child's faces are endearing and full of warmth. Affection abounds in this family.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a canvas of palest yellow. Across the two pages in different sizes are bubbles. In nine of them, acting as mirrors, are the child's face. Happiness is reflected in each one. Their eyes are alight with pure contentment. Their cheeks are rounded from happiness. In several of them an open mouth indicates shouts of merriment.
In many families, bath time is a habit with rambunctious results. Through the talents of author Nikki Grimes and artist Elizabeth Zunon, it becomes a glorious, lighthearted romp in Off to See the Sea. This is a book to inspire other original voyages. You'll want to make sure you have a copy in your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names. Nikki Grimes has accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Elizabeth Zunon has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Elizabeth Zunon has a blog here. Elizabeth Zunon answers five questions at The Horn Book. Here is a link to a virtual launch for this book with both Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon at Books of Wonder.
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