Cover: The World Below the Brine

“Whitman’s poem is set to a lush and stunning illustrated world.
While the language of Whitman’s 1860 poem may not be as accessible to children as some other picture-book choices, artist Carroll’s illustrations more than compensate. Each line of the poem is illustrated by one or two double-page spreads that both depict the text literally and also convey the mystery and wonder of the natural world that is at the heart of Whitman’s text. Carroll employs varied techniques from one spread to the next: the nebulous forms and blended hues of wet watercolor that depict the bottom of the sea, jellyfish composed of lines so fine they glow electric, an entire ocean patterned with fine swirls reminiscent of Peter Sís’ work. Yet every illustration shares the same haunting eeriness of the deep ocean, a nighttime palette punctuated with explosions of color here or a landscape of colors there. A pale-skinned human child gives the pages a subtle story to follow, diving from a boat to swim the depths alongside existent animals and fantastical creatures alike, then returning to “the subtle air breathed by beings like us who walk this sphere.” A dog watches anxiously from the vessel, ears flapping as the child reemerges, borne up by a sea serpent’s tail.
A challenging text made visually and viscerally wondrous. (Picture book. 4-8)
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