Friday, January 13, 2017

A Message In A Bottle: The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles lived alone on a high spot with only one tree for shade.

He always kept an eye on the waves, watching for a glint of glass.

He had a job of utmost importance.

The shabby, worn old beachcomber, reeking of seaweed and perpetual damp. is the postman of the sea. As he sees his job, it is crucial that any message found in a sea-tossed bottle be delivered to its intended destination. Delivery is not easy. But still he is steadfast in his duty, searching till his compass grows rusty.

Sometimes the messages were old, crunchy, like leaves in the fall, written by a quill dipped in sadness.

But the old beachcomber, whose real name has long since been forgotten, loves his work, because sometimes the messages make people happy. He wonders if he will ever find a message addressed to himself so that he might be glad, too. But who would send him a message?

Each time a part of him hoped to to see his name winking at the top of a page. But then he remembered he had no name and no friends.

Then one day the old sea scrounger finds a message with no intended recipient and no signature, just an open invitation to a party at the village seaport at eventide. It ends...

"Will you come, please?"

He asks about the village. Does anyone know anything about the sender, he asks the baker and a sailor and a resting seagull. The chocolate seller and a girl in a green dress and everyone deny sending the message, but they all agree they would love to dance at such a party. Disappointed that he cannot find anyone to claim the invitation, he decides to go to the appointed place and time of the party and if the sender is there, to make his apologies for failing to deliver.

And when the man arrives at the seaport at sunset, he finds the place decorated in seaweed garlands studded with starfish, and bright candles floating in seashells. The baker is there with a huge cake, and it seems the whole village is there also, even a band, and he himself dances to the music with a girl in green.

It seems that everyone, like he himself, was waiting for an invitation.

In her little parable of loneliness and friendship found, Michelle Cuevas' new The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles (Dial Books, 2016) is as misty and lovely a tale as her seaside setting. The author takes the idea of the message in a bottle and its intriguing mystery as a symbol for the very human desire to make contact with each other, and the lonely figure of the nameless postman of the sea trying to make that human connection is one that people of any age will understand. Cuervas' narrative language is as lyrical as any poem, and Caldecott Award-winning artist Erin Stead sets the mood magically, with wispy, fog-ridden, and evocative images of seaside flotsam and salty citizens that fit the premise perfectly. "A perfect pairing of text and art. Share this quiet story with your wishers and dreamers," says School Library Journal.

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