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"In circular fashion, this simple story's narration unfolds, with great power behind the few words on each page.
The intense illustrations, done in pencil and digitally colored, set human and animal characters into seascapes and interior scenes in an almost timeless Vietnam and extend the story far beyond the words. A wife and a baby are in their traditional kitchen anxiously awaiting the fisherman-husband's return. He is in his boat, fearfully viewing the dark waves and black clouds but also looking at family photos (a hint of modernity). Will he get home to his wife and baby 'in his village by the sea' in the 'small house' mentioned at beginning and end? Of course readers hope that he will, but there's far more to this book than just the story. The visual surprises here are a faithful, loving dog that appears in most illustrations and leads eyes to 'a brown cricket, humming and painting' beyond a hole in the wall. This is not just any cricket but perhaps illustrator Chu's avatar. After all, the cricket is seen painting the scene of the stormy seas and the little white fishing boat with the husband sitting nervously on the deck. Near the author and artist biographies, the cricket is even signing 'AC.;
The illustrations, with strong references to Chinese pen-and-ink landscapes and Japanese woodblock prints of the sea, will draw readers to this book again and again."--starred, Kirkus Reviews
"Artist Chu (Summoning the Phoenix) and first-time author Van transport readers to a small seaside village. Opening with a scene of fishermen at work beside cliffs where a house is nestled ('In a fishing village by the sea/ there is a small house'), Van's circular, incantatory writing closes in on the house ('In that house, / high above the waves, / is a kitchen'), where a woman cooks, a dog explores, and a baby rests. Skillfully using a variety of visual perspectives, Chu's delicately detailed and colored illustrations invite close study; the fishermen's nets have a gauzy translucence, and papery garlic bulbs, veiny basil leaves, and softly glowing lanterns are all drawn with naturalistic care. As Van directs readers down a hole in the corner of the room, the story shifts into fantasy--beneath the floorboards, a cricket paints a majestic picture of a stormy sea, in which a fisherman (previously seen in the opening pages) longs to return to the woman and child in the hillside home. A lovely, resonant portrait of family life that hums with quiet magic."--starred, Publishers Weekly-- (3/10/2020 12:00:00 AM)