Out to Sea
“The art is stunning, the words are poetic, and for many, the book will be a comfort, showing how to manage grief by holding onto memories.”
Out to Sea by Helen Kellock is an oversized book with a swirling blue cover adorned with whales, otters, turtles, seals, and a redhaired girl in a yellow boat. Open the book to find turquoise end papers. Lara lies in bed, feeling sad about her grandmother. “She lay awake missing her Nana and thinking sad thoughts that had no name or shape.”
“The thoughts swirled around and around inside her and spilled out into tears that were heavy with blue.” The tears turn into water filling up her bedroom. “Drop by drop they filled up the room until there was no space left to hold them.”
Lara is in her boat drifting out the bedroom door, out of her house and down the street. A transition double-page spread shows her leaving the city and heading down a river. On the next spread, two black-and-white birds watch her boat float out to sea.
“Lara drifted alone through the night and into days and weeks.” Red hair flying, Lara heads into a large wave. “And soon she forgot everything that made her feel happy and safe.”
Red hair flying, Lara heads into a large wave. Turn the page and she is inside a vortex of water, filled with sea creatures in dark blues and black, her yellow boat swirling into a huge horizontal drain. Turn the page and she is underwater, with bat rays swimming overhead. “But then, deep in the dark belly of the ocean, Lara saw something softly shimmer. A glowing pearl, waiting just for her.”
She sees a glowing pearl, her memories. “With her pearl safely tucked in her pocket, Lara picked up her oars and set off toward home.”
The art transitions Lara out of the belly of the ocean, where she was underwater, and back to the top of the ocean, where she is above the water in her boat. The large wave has a whale at the end of it, as sea animals swirl around her. As the sun sets, Lara sits backward in her boat and rows home.
In her room, the water is receding, and the sea creatures see that she is tucked back into bed.
The symbolism shows Lara’s emotions as the dark, swirling sea. The watercolor art is rich and inviting, unless you are child who is fearful and/or not a good swimmer. The art has the potential to be frightening. The girl, underwater in the belly of the ocean, is another place for increased anxiety in certain children. Lara is submerged, yet somehow breathing just fine. Most children will be able to suspend reality and accept that Lara is not in danger. There will be the occasional sensitive kid who won’t be able to tolerate Lara under the sea with no mask and no source of air.
Parents and guardians will know right away if this book of water will soothe or startle a child dealing with loss of a loved one.
The art is stunning, the words are poetic, and for many, the book will be a comfort, showing how to manage grief by holding onto memories.