Tomi Ungerer, Fog Island
Phaidon Press, 48p
This book is magic and I am not surprised it was included in Top 10 Children’s Book 2013 by New York Times Book Review.
The author was born in France but he moved to Ireland in 1976 so this book is dedicated to Ireland and to all the wonderful people who welcomed us here.
Siblings Finn and Cara live with their parents by the sea in the back of beyond. Their living conditions are precarious but they are grateful to what they have. Their father is a fisherman and also a boat builder so one day he builds a small curragh as a surprise for his children.
A currach (Irish: curach, Irish pronunciation: [ˈkʊɾˠax]) is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched, though now canvas is more usual. It is sometimes anglicised as “Curragh”. The construction and design of the currach are unique to the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland, with variations in size and shape by region.
The children are asked to enjoy their boat but to avoid Fog Island as it is
a doomed and evil place, surrounded by treacherous current. Those who have ventured there have never returned.
As expected, the children explore the sea but they are carried by the currents to Fog Island. The illustrations are captivating. In the darkness of the night we see a steep, narrow stairway leading to the top of the cliff and anthropomorphic rocks that curiously look at the two children. Behind a door set into a stone wall, Finn and Cara meet Fog Man, the man who makes the fog. Despite his primitive appearance, the Fog Man is kind and keeps the children overnight offering food and playing music for them. He also explains how he makes the fog and invites children to look into the centre of the earth.
The next day the siblings return home safely but nobody believes their story. It is amazing how the author leaves the facts unexplained as all myths should remain. Irish folklore elements blend with everyday life aspects from a rural community by the sea leading to an enigmatic story that can be set anytime but which explains the powerful connection between human and nature.
The book is mainly atmospheric. There are pages without text; we can actually feel the silence or the smell of fog.
Those who like legends will surely love this book.
You can find the book here: http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=wordstoworlds