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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > June 2018 > Illustrating the good in feeling bad

Illustrating the good in feeling bad

In three new books, established artists unearth joy by way of a grieving boy, a sad flamingo, and a petulant hedgehog


* Ocean Meets Sky

The Fan Brothers

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 4–8

I’m Sad

Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi, ill.

S&S Books for Young Readers, Ages 4–8


Ashlyn Anstee

Tundra Books, Ages 3–7

WHILE THE Fan Brothers, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and Ashlyn Anstee employ acutely different tones, styles, and media in their latest picture books, all unearth joy in some of life’s most unpleasant feelings: grief, sadness, and selfishness.

Ocean Meets Sky opens in sepia-soaked serenity, with a young boy named Finn remembering his late grandpa and the stories they shared “about a place far away where ocean meets sky.” Finn builds a boat in tribute to these stories, falls asleep, and wakes up sailing the sea in a mythical world full of giant fish, islands of books, and mountainous seashells.

As the journey progresses, so too does the enchantment of the surroundings. The Fans’ illustrations are truly breathtaking. Unforgettable highlights include an aerial view of Finn sailing over a gargantuan golden fish alongside iridescent moon jellyfish and an ascension into the sky to meet a placid blue whale floating across the moon. Finn also crosses paths with the Titanic, an old masted vessel entangled in a kraken’s tentacles, and several war submarines in the sky. These ships, like Finn’s grandfather, who Finn later sees in the moon, are actually harmless ghosts. The Fans juxtapose the real with the surreal, showing that imagination and story can play a crucial role in processing loss.

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