Though The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles may seem to have a simple job, retrieving and delivering messages from bottles floating in the ocean, his task is actually “of the utmost importance,” for the messages he delivers almost always make the recipients “quite happy.” Yet while the Uncorker faithfully trudges through snow and storm delivering great joy to others, he wonders if he might ever receive his own letter. When an unaddressed note arrives bearing an invitation to a party on the beach, the Uncorker diligently searches for the proper recipient, leading to an unexpected but delightful gathering of friends and neighbors. Caldecott Medalist Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrator) captures the story’s charm with her unique woodblock print style overlaid with pencil sketches and oil pastels. In one spread, she captures the simple joy of the Uncorker’s deliveries with a profound nostalgia as an old woman sits beside her aged phonograph, complete with crank and oversized horn, holding a letter in her hand while she closes her eyes and savors the joyful moment. Her joy is juxtaposed with the Uncorker’s solitude on the opposite page, where he is seen striding away with only his faithful cat to temper his loneliness. Cuevas tastefully interrupts the story’s poetic tenderness on occasion by quirky inclusions like a “mouth full of cake” that bring an anchoring touch to the Uncorker’s celestial seaside world.
This book is worth buying for the beautiful illustrations alone, but the story and writing equally beautiful. It's one of the real treasures of our bookshelf. We've been reading it for years, and my now three-year-old has never gotten tired of hearing it, and I've never gotten tired of reading it to her. One of my favorite things about it is that without being preachy or even having a single clear moral, it's the kind of book that makes you feel good and makes you want to be a good person.
This book tells the story of a man who delivers letters found at sea. When he is unable to deliver an invitation to a party, he searches all over town to try to find the attendee.
Michelle Cuevas graduated from Williams College and holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Virginia. She is the author of acclaimed picture book and national bestseller The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles (illustrated by Erin E. Stead), Smoot A Rebellious Shadow (illustrated by Sydney Smith), and several children’s novels including The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole (winner of the Massachusetts Book Award), and Confessions of an Imaginary Friend. Both novels are currently in production as feature films. Michelle lives and writes in Western Massachusetts. Read more about her books at MichelleCuevas.com.
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