A young child and a faithful giraffe companion take to the ocean in a yellow kayak. Initially, their journey is calm yet exciting. “Fish jump” and “Loons float” while they drift out to sea through a picturesque arch as the sun sinks toward the horizon. But tension increases as an adventure-inducing breeze swells the ocean waves to a tempestuous storm. When the skies clear once more, just as the brave sailors seem to be out of harm’s way, a giant tail rises from the water, and “monster” whales are discovered circling beneath the fragile kayak. But “Eyes watch, then understand,” and the imposing creatures turn out to be an escort home, where the child and giraffe sit safely on the dock, watching the day end as they savor their ocean journey. Laden’s rhymes are delightful throughout, though a near rhyme disappoints in the midst of otherwise perfect rhymes. Castrillon’s color scheme is bold and imaginative, although when coupled with the text it could at times confuse young readers (for instance, the “blue sky” is actually depicted yellow). Her memorable, pencil-sketched, digitally-colored illustrations have a notable layered, lithograph-like element to them and, combined with Laden’s minimal text, present many moments to simply admire the beautiful ocean imagery.
Author Laden’s theme of calm courage, perseverance, and trust in the face of unforeseen difficulties is presented in an evocative, spare, rhyming format . . . Illustrator Castrillon’s decorative, full-of-heart illustrations . . . are well-matched to the text: their stylized imagery, muted colors on off-white paper, and occasional deliberate off-registration give them an antique chromolithography look that enhances the tale’s nostalgic, timeless feel.
"Even with the excitement, Castrillon’s images convey an underlying tranquility that carries readers along with the explorers."
Nina Laden is the author-illustrator of many books for kids, including Peek-a-Who?; Who Loves You, Baby?; The Night I Followed the Dog; and Yellow Kayak. She lives with her husband on Lummi Island, Washington
Melissa Castrillón is a freelance illustrator currently based in Cambridge, England. She grew up in a small town called Hitchin and moved to Cambridge eight years ago, where she earned a First class Honors Degree in illustration. In 2014 she earned a Master’s Degree in children’s book illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. She is the illustrator of If I Had a Little Dream and Yellow Kayak, and the author-illustrator of The Balcony.
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