chil­dren’s book of the week

Bath Chronicle - - FAMILY MATTERS -

And The Ocean WAS Our sky by Patrick ness il­lus­trated by Rov­ina Cai, Walker Books, £12.99

The al­ways-won­der­ful Patrick Ness has turned his at­ten­tion to the ocean in this pared back, mys­te­ri­ous and, at times, sin­is­ter reimag­in­ing of Moby-dick. A pod of hunt­ing whales, har­poons strapped to their hulk­ing bodies, come across the much-mythol­o­gised trail of killer Toby Wick – a mur­der­ous fig­ure with a white-hulled boat who mas­sacres all in his wake. Cap­tain Alexan­dria and her pod of ap­pren­tices set off in pur­suit, but it’s a topsy-turvy world where whales and men (who live in the oxy­gen-filled ‘abyss’) are locked in an on­go­ing war, each hunt­ing the other. Bathsheba, Cap­tain Alexan­dria’s youngest ap­pren­tice, be­gins to ques­tion the way of things, ask­ing whether war makes dev­ils of us all in the end. It is a touch con­fus­ing at first, work­ing out how the whales op­er­ate – although Rov­ina Cai’s darkly pow­er­ful and shad­owy il­lus­tra­tions shot through with blood-red (her sharks are par­tic­u­larly ter­ri­fy­ing), do help you get a grip on the whales’ un­der­wa­ter civil­i­sa­tion. At­mo­spheric, vi­o­lent, drip­ping with grief and laced with an ever-present sense of dread, All The Ocean Was Our Sky is also pep­pered with ker­nels of hope and en­cour­ages us to al­ways query the sta­tus quo.

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