Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fog Island

Ungerer declares his latest picture book a homage to Ireland. Set in a coastal town "in the back of beyond," The Fog tells an atmospheric tale of two children, a brother and sister, who become lost in a soupy fog at sea and must find their way back home.

Finn and Cara live with their parents in a cozy cottage. Their father is a fisherman; their mother manages the family farm. The children help out, tending sheep and cutting peat for the hearth.

As a surprise, one day their father presents them with a small rowboat--a curragh. He also warns them never to go near Fog Island, "a jagged black tooth" miles offshore.

But while out in their boat, a thick fog surrounds Finn and Cara, and strong currents pull them to the island. While exploring the eerie place, the children encounter Fog Man, "a wizened old man" covered from head to toe in strands of long, seaweed-green hair.

A genial host, Fog Man shows the children how he makes fog and promises to provide them a fog-free journey home the following morning. The trio spend the night singing songs and slurping shellfish stew. Although Fog Man is not around when Finn and Cara wake up, true to his word, the fog is gone.

After a eventful trip home--in which they lose the boat in a fierce storm and are rescued by fishermen--the children are reunited with their parents, none the worse for wear. They find, however, that no one believes their story about the Fog Man. But the brother and sister know the truth, and when Cara finds an extremely long strand of hair, they giggle in mutual appreciation.

The mist-colored illustrations are studded with intriguing details for young readers to wonder at. As they climb a steep mountain stairway, claw-like branches seem to reach out for them, adding to the scene's tension, and the jagged slabs of stones appear eerily human. Yet throughout their adventure, the children show no fear and prove themselves resilient. Ungerer's message of curiosity and imagination trumping fear is one that will resonate with many readers. It certainly did with this one.

If you'd like to hear Ungerer talk in length about Fog Island, I urge you to watch this YouTube video.

Fog Island
by Tomi Ungerer
Phaidon, 48 pages
Published: April, 2013

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