Monday, August 2, 2010

I Love Kidlit: The Serpent Came to Gloucester

Today's selection is M.T. Anderson's lyrical masterpiece, The Serpent Came to Gloucester, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. The book narrates the 1817 instance of a reported sea serpent spotted of the coast of Massachusetts from the eyes of a local boy. I adore the poetic song like refrains that set a mysterious and haunting tone, complemented perfectly by illustrations inspired by 19th century maritime paintings. Ibatoulline succeeds in creating a beautiful and believable environment while still retaining a warmth that makes this world inviting and his characters friendly. It has a realistic feel but his people are just stylized enough to make them relatable. And even under the threat of a massive beast lurking in the water, he manages to keep us feeling safe. He is truly a master of his craft. It serves to remind me how to successfully draw from historical references to inform and inspire a befitting look and feel to a story.

From a design/visual standpoint, this is one of my top three children's books of all time. Beautiful pictures, intriguing story, good use of pacing the between single and double page spreads, elegant and unobtrusive typeface and spacing, integrated endpapers--the entire package is a work of art. Candlewick Press truly delivers standout picturebooks. One of my favorite touches is that removing the dust jacket reveals the hidden cover made to look like a distressed old book. I love little surprises like that.

This is everything I admire in well-told and well-crafted kidlit.


  1. I love this illustrator! Have you seen his pictures to 'Edward Tulane' book by Kate DiCamillo? They are amazing - so detailed and realistic but still have magic inside and make you stare at them over and over again.

    This book looks incredible too, hopefully I'll see it someday (but I wouldn't be too sure of that :/).

  2. Yes, I am very familiar with Bagram's work! I think I have all but his latest book. I loved Edward Tulane, definitely one of my favorites!