Ennui By The Sea: Barnacle Is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
THE TIDE COMES IN.
I AM WET AND COLD.
As Barnacle hangs from his shell under the pier, the rising tide inundates him and he shivers in the chilly sea.
THE TIDE GOES OUT.
Now he's hot and dehydrated, dangling high and dry. And all that happens every twelve hours. Unpleasant, and BO-RING!
The sun rises. The sun sets. Same old same old, every day.
The only novelty is the size of the waves. Sometimes they just splash. Sometimes they crash! At least it's a change! Barnacle is weary with watching the world pass him by. Barnacle is bored stiff. Well, technically, part of him is.
Then he spots something new. It's a cute little spotted fish with big round eyes. Gee whiz! Look at him go, free to roam the sea!
THE LITTLE POLKA-DOTTED SHOW-OFF!
I BET HIS DAYS ARE SO FUN.
Barnacle imagines what it must be to be free to swim through the sea--to dive deep with dolphins, flap with the flounders, play tag with plankton, and sound with whales. Life would never be boring if only Barnacle could be like that fish. He's lost in vivid images of what life might be if he were free.
But...Wait!! As the little polka-dotted fish swims insouciantly under the pier, Barnacle sees that he's not exactly alone. He's being followed... no, pursued by a giant moray eel with his mouth wide open. And then...
GULP! Little Polka-Dot Fish is... gone!
Barnacle shrinks way up, as far as he can go, inside his shell and hopes that morays don't crave crustaceans. Then he realizes something else. Maybe he is...
Jonathan Fenske's newest, Barnacle Is Bored (Scholastic Press, 2016) is a seemingly simple little picture book with a line or two of text per page and simple illustrations which have a lot more going on than might first appear.
With its premise that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, artist Fenske skillfully uses pared-down blackline drawings and a light touch of pastel watercolors, but his cartoons use the few lines in his character's' face and his four dangling appendages to reveal Barnacle's mood, from listless to sulky to terrified, as the story unfolds. Suddenly he gets it that his shell is not just what is holding him back: it's what is protecting him, too, with irony in Barnacle's final statement as he contemplates the risk-to-adventure ratio of life in the sea. And then Fenske saves a last bit of ironic humor for the final page, one that will probably evoke a new round of giggles from preschool and primary readers.