Mighty Moby

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Moby Dick (2017), text by Barbara Dacosta and illustrations by Caldecott winner, Ed Young, is a children’s adaption of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Dacosta and Young collaborate to convey the essence of Moby Dick through dynamic illustrations and enchanting language. Mighty Moby is a complex picture book that will reveal its layers as children revisit it through the years.

The story begins with sailors singing, “Three long years we’ve been at sea, Homeward bound we want to be, A-sailing, sailing, a-sailing-oh….”

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Ed Young’s illustrations were done in cut-paper collage, and successfully convey Captain Ahab’s obsession to kill Moby Dick, the whale that maimed him years ago. The grittiness of the sailor’s life at sea is expressed through off-kilter angles and an eerie color palette. Young deftly plays with size and perspective to awe the reader with the whale’s magnitude and tranquility.

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The reader rushes into battle. Quotation marks disappears. Captain Ahab harpoons Moby Dick and a war of wills commences. The reader hangs onto the rope of the harpoon for dear life with Captain Ahab as Moby Dick thrashes in the ocean.

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The sailors wait anxiously for Captain Ahab or Moby Dick to emerge. Who will survive?

Suddenly, with the force of an earthquake, a red-eyed Moby Dick breaks the surface. Boats and sailors go flying into air. At the height of drama…

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Bath times over. A parent pulls a toy white whale out of the water. The story goes down the drain.

“Time for bed, matey.”

“Aye, aye Captain.”

Dacosta and Young understand the lasting impact stories can have on children as they continue to mix imagination and reality after Moby Dick has ended. To indicate a shift from fantasy to reality, Young switches his material from mostly painted paper to photographs of real objects, such as a towel and bed. However, whale’s eye looms large over child’s bedroom.

The parent picks up the sailor’s verse as they sing the child to sleep. “Wide are the waters of the deep blue sea, Great is the whale that got away free. Sleepy is the sailor who’s tucked in bed, Soft is the pillow beneath the young sailor’s head.”

 

-Carolyn Yee

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