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READ TO ME: Little paper boat carries a life over perilous, wondrous seas

by Celia Storey | January 4, 2021 at 1:50 a.m.
"The Wanderer" by Peter Van den Ende (Levine Querido, Oct. 6) ages 8-18, 96 pages, $21.99 hardback, $10.99 ebook. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

"The Wanderer"

BY: Peter Van den Ende (Levine Querido, Oct. 6), ages 8-18, 96 pages, $21.99 hardback, $10.99 ebook.

STORY: A barefoot child and an otherworldly being whose head includes a crescent moon construct a paper boat as big as the boy is. The boat launches from a ship powered by windsocks. The seascape becomes increasingly patterned, and these textural patterns are creatures great or small. Some of the creatures are visual puns.

The world dwarfs the boat. It is vulnerable.

It navigates and/or survives five joyful, perilous seas, picking up a hitchhiking seahorse in one graphically wondrous place and dropping it off in another; being peered into by curious snakes or lifted on the sparkling fluke of an orca; escaping tentacles of doom and furious storm stallions and toxic clouds that kill clean white birds on the wing; drifting into mangrove swamps and over coral reefs and under the curtains of the Northern Lights and through cavernous ice; passing from magical wilds into a controlled technological weirdness where whales wear showerheads and look trapped in girdles of gear.

The line quality reminds me of Escher's drawings. The danger feels real. But where is the boat headed? Through a lifetime. To a friend.

This feast of precision line drawing looks like a children's book, and it can be. The age range suggested is 8 to 18, but the only reader too old has cataracts. Even a clear-eyed kid should view it under good light. Don't imagine that the lack of words means 3-year-olds will appreciate it. Each proseless page requires close inspection, and so: no. Newbies would be bored.

Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.

"The Wanderer" by Peter Van den Ende (Levine Querido, Oct. 6) ages 8-18, 96 pages, $21.99 hardback, $10.99 ebook. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)
"The Wanderer" by Peter Van den Ende (Levine Querido, Oct. 6) ages 8-18, 96 pages, $21.99 hardback, $10.99 ebook. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)
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