By Janelle B. Mathis, PhD, University of North Texas and Katie Loomis, Librarian and Doctoral Student, University of North Texas
In the second installment of January’s MTYT, Janelle B. Mathis and Katie Loomis talk about the picturebook A Drop of the Sea, written by Ingrid Chabbert and illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi. The theme for this month focuses on child agency and situations where children can relate to adults through personal relationship, actions, words or questions.
Originally published in Spain, this translated book takes place near the desert in a Middle Eastern setting. A young boy has a very close relationship with his Great-Grandmother and Ali enjoys just sitting on the roof of their clay house with her and watching the stars. He has become concerned that she is showing signs of getting older and asks if all her dreams have come true. The only dream she remembers as not coming true is that of seeing the sea—a two days walk that she always put off. Since she can no longer walk that far, Ali sets out to find the sea for her. Once he reaches it, he sits and wonders and wishes she were with him. He then fills his bucket and heads to their house—rushing into her arms with his pail. With one of the few drops of water that remained in the bucket after the two-day trip in hand, she declares this to be one of the most beautiful days of her life. The story closes with Ali telling his Great-Grandmother about the sea as they sat that night on their rooftop.
Janelle: Ali took it upon himself to ask his grandmother about the dreams of her life as he realized she was getting older and that there is a limit to one’s life. His agency as a child shines in many ways through the love and friendship he has with his Great- Grandmother. They are the only two characters in this picturebook, although we don’t know if other family members might live in their small house. The illustrations are created to elaborate on this relationship since Ali’s eyes are open only when looking at Great-Grandmother. Otherwise, this cartoon style character has his eyes closed. Both characters are disproportionate in shape with very large heads but distinctive clothing that distinguishes Great Grandmother as Muslim. Most pages use only two or three colors and lots of white space that emphasizes the vast space in which they live. The focus is definitely on the child and his actions that authentically come from the love for his Great-Grandmother. While this trip was not a small endeavor for a child and I must admit I wondered about the reality of his leaving for two days on his own, the simple act of bringing the sea to the older woman added beauty to her life—not only because of the drop of sea, but I would imagine the actions of the boy added to her sense of being valued, loved and important to this child. The images are almost comical yet reflect a child’s perspective and make this unrealistic journey believable.
Katie: Ali is a boy on a mission to bring the sea to his Great-Grandmother. His ability to understand his Great-Grandmother’s longing to visit the sea as a last dream and feel the water is so refreshing. He decides to take it upon himself to make this happen for her, even though she is unable to go to the sea herself. Ali’s attempt to bring the sea back shows just how much a life can be changed with a drop of water. I know this story is unrealistic, a little boy isn’t really going to walk to the sea and back, but it is realistic to think that a child would want to help fulfill his Great-Grandmother’s dream. Ali’s amazing journey showed her how important she is to him. He didn’t think twice about setting out on this journey. He wasn’t going to stop until he was able to give her this gift. I agree that the illustrations add to understanding Ali and the Great-Grandmother’s close relationship. The illustrations with their simplicity drew me in from the very start. I too had a very close relationship with my GG. She was a very brave, larger-than-life character in my life, just as this Great-Grandmother is in the book.
Title: A Drop in the Sea
Author: Ingrid Chabbert
Illustrator: Raúl Nieto Guridi
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Pub Date: October 2, 2018
This is the second installment of January’s issue of My Take Your Take. The first installment can be found here. Check back next month to see what books we’ve selected and to follow the conversation!