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Review of The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

uncorkerThe Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
by Michelle Cuevas; illus. by Erin E. Stead
Primary    Dial    40 pp.
8/16    978-0-8037-3868-3    $17.99    g

Working as a kind of seaside mail carrier, the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles seeks out all the floating messages in bottles and delivers them to their proper recipients. The wistful Uncorker, shown going to great lengths to deliver the messages, secretly wants to receive a message of his own, but “then he remembered that this was about as likely as finding a mermaid’s toenail on the beach. For he had no name. He had no friends. He stank of seaweed and salt and fishermen’s feet.” When the Uncorker finds a bottle containing a party invitation with no addressee, he checks in with all the locals to no avail. Feeling defeated, he decides to go to the party to apologize to the sender, but when he arrives, he finds everyone else has come too. The Uncorker never finds the bottle’s sender, but in a roundabout way he has delivered — and received — the message perfectly. Stead’s art, using woodblock prints, oil pastels, and pencil, brings out the dreamlike quality of the story, showing the seaside setting from a variety of vantage points with engaging details to notice and follow. A soft palette of cool greens and warm yellows with pops of red develops the atmosphere, while fine, detailed lines capture the personalities and quirks of the story’s characters. The text meanders, and is heavy with metaphors; but the power and importance of communication and connection reverberate throughout the quiet, poignant tale.

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Roach About Julie Roach

Julie Roach manages youth services at the Cambridge Public Library in Massachusetts. She also teaches children’s literature at Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and at Lesley University.

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