The Definitive Guide to

To the Sea

Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Published by Disney-Hyperion
- Bookroo Rating
Goodreads Rating - 4.2 / 5.0
List Price
Target Age
Book Type

What Does Bookroo Think of To the Sea

“For anyone who's ever felt alone, an emotional deep-dive that will leave you on a high.”

The dedication “to anyone who feels invisible and any whale that needs to get back to the sea” succinctly summarizes both the message and the story of the book, which are simple but lovely. This tale of one little boy’s efforts to help his new friend the whale make it back home to the sea is awash in emotion and particularly poignant in the way it deals with the very real and universal experience of children occasionally feeling alone or invisible. Atkinson beautifully captures the perspective of a child in both his text and illustration. Upon having to leave the whale alone for the night, Tim leaves him “two glasses of water, some company [(a goldfish)] and left one light on” in a beautifully simple gesture designating exactly what a child often needs to be comforted at night. The striking two toned illustrations are where this book truly sets itself apart, with the contrast between the warm orange and cool teal illustrations lending almost laser focus to the heart of each page, while simultaneously expressing the temperature of emotion as experienced by the books’ participants. While Tim’s features are realistically colored (peach skin, brown eyes and hair, etc.), all of the other children throughout the book (until the final page) are monochromatic orange—they are separate background beings, seeming to experience only bliss in their clementine glow, which further emphasizes Tim’s feelings of invisibility and alienation. Tim’s feelings are front and center thoughout. The sheer size of the whale speaks to the depth of the feelings of isolation and loneliness a child can feel, and also lends an air of child-like perspective, as does the font, which while slightly hard to read, clearly designates the point of view. While the book takes place mostly in the semi-darkness of a teal world, the vibrant full-color illustrations of the last page, as Tim is able to take the lessons he learned in his interaction with the whale (be it real or only imagined) and apply it to making a new friend, bring the book full circle and end on a high note in the beautifully comforting way of children’s books.

What's To the Sea About

Publisher Summary

Sometimes Tim feels invisible at school-until one day, when Tim meets Sam. But Sam isn’t just any new friend: he’s a blue whale, and he can’t find his way home! Returning Sam to the sea is hard work, but Tim is determined to help. After all, it’s not every day you meet a new friend! This picture book about the power of friendship by new talent Cale Atkinson is brought to life by charming, dynamic illustrations.

What Kind of Book is To the Sea

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Quotes from To the Sea

  • "He left Sam two glasses of water, some company, and kept one light on."
  • "They both felt better knowing they weren't invisible."

What Questions Should I Ask My Child

  • Prior to meeting Sam, we learn that Tim feels invisible. Once he meets Sam and knows that he needs help getting back to the sea, Tim promises his new friend that he will help him and finds purpose in his life. Have you ever felt alone? How can helping others help us feel better when we are lonely?

  • Tim comes up with a lot of different plans of how to help Sam get back to the sea. When he shows the ideas to Sam, most of them seem impossible. What would have happened if they gave up because it looked too hard? What can we learn about determination from this story?

Trusted Reviews & Ratings

The Book Snob Mom
Mom, Avid Reader, Austen Fangirl

I absolutely LOVE To the Sea. The text is simple and relatively sparse, making it a pretty quick read while tackling the issues of loneliness and friendship in a kid-friendly and optimistic way. The illustrations are fun, modern and so expressive—such a fun read aloud!

B is for Bookworm
Human Development Degree, Book-loving aunt

I love To the Sea! The illustrations are my favorite. So beautiful and I love the colors. To the Sea does a great job talking about what makes a good friend—they don’t let you down and are there for you!

The Goodfather
Husband. Father. Children's Book Critic Extraordinaire:)
Mom of Boys
Three little boys who love books about dragons, whangdoodles and magic.

The stunning illustrations in this book truly make you stop and stare as you read the delightful tale of friendship and kindness. A message of watching out for the little guy or discovering the truth about someone who is a little different are great messages weaved throughout the pages of “To the Sea.” Very easy to read with minimal text, this book is definitely one you and your little reader will want to pick up again and again.

Book Lists That Include To the Sea

Book Topics › fiction
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Book Topics › Top 10+ Books To Read in 2020
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Book Topics › Preschool
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Book Topics › 100 Hidden Gem
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Who Wrote To the Sea

author & illustrator
Cale Atkinson

Cale Atkinson is an illustrator/writer/animator currently residing in Kelowna Canada. He claims to love tea more than sleep, which makes sense when you realize how many projects and clients he’s dealing with on a regular basis. With creative storytelling and engaging illustrations, Cale’s work has earned awards like Buzzfeed 17 Most Beautiful Books 2015, Ontario Library Association Best Bets Top 10 2015, and CBC Children’s Choice Award Finalist 2016. Cale recently spent a month in Portugal, and you can see his incredible Lisbon-inspired art on his Twitter account where he regularly updates his followers as to his coming adventures and works.

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What Has Cale Atkinson Said About To the Sea

  • To The Sea is an inspiring story of friendship. Why did you create this story?

    There have been many moments growing up where I’ve felt alone and unseen, almost invisible in my surroundings. I think most of us have those moments some time or another. I wanted to write a story which captured that feeling, and then showed how everything can change once you meet a friend (or whale!) that sees you for who you are. Having a true friend is a mighty special thing and can turn any rainy day to sunny skies. I wanted to create To The Sea to tell everyone out there, “You are not invisible, I see you!”

Cale Atkinson's Book Dedication

Dedicated to anyone who feels invisible and any whale that needs to get back to the sea.

What Do Critics Say About To the Sea

  • Kirkus Reviews

    “Children will cheer as Tim ties Sam to a rope behind his bike and pulls and pedals and huffs and puffs him all the way to a seaside cliff…and over!”

    Read full review >>
  • Publishers Weekly

    “[The] illustrations—and their eye-popping marigold and teal palette—will make readers sit up and take notice. In a vibrant orange raincoat, Tim is a spot of bright color . . . “

    Read full review >>

Did To the Sea Win Any Awards

You bet it did. Check it out below!

Where is Tim trying to help Sam go?
  1. To the beach
  2. To the sea
  3. To the aquarium
  4. To the school
Take the Full Quiz!

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Book Details

ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
Publication Date:
June 2, 2015