children’s book of the week
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.