To the Sea
To the Sea

To the Sea

Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
3 - 6
Reading age
Page count
Lexile measure
Jun 2, 2015
Publication date

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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 Kind of Book is To the Sea

Primarily about

lonelinessfriendship  problem solving  



    Tim and Whale from *To the Sea*

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?


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Book Details

Publication Date
June 2, 2015
Page Count
Reading Age
3 - 6 years
Lib. of Congress (LCCN)
WorldCat Number (OCLC)
Est. Lexile® Level
Est. Fountas & Pinnell Level
ATOS® Book Level
Accelerated Reader® Points
Accelerated Reader Quiz
Accelerated Reader Interest Level

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