For all of the exhortations to dream big – at technology conferences, in unemployment offices and children’s literature – I’m not sure it’s the size of our reveries we can ever exactly control. Some people just aren’t born dreaming of Everest, no matter how loud or how tunefully we insist that they should.
No, some people are easily distracted – by caterpillars and flitty sparrows and inscrutable pelicans and possible pirates and clouds that change from one thing to another and roses “and all their pink and all their sweet and all their wild and their waving…” wait, where was I? Right. Keep your eyes on the prize! Or, failing that, keep them open. If the journey seems like small potatoes now, maybe that is because we do not have a destination to compare it to.
Yet. Or maybe never. That is my takeaway from If You Want to See a Whale by the recently transcendent writer and illustrator team of Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead, though I would be pleased to discover there are other awesome whoppers lurking beneath these surfaces. According to a note on the book jacket here, Stead met Fogliano while working together in a New York City bookstore, and I doubt they were looking for a each other, yet here we are ultimately blessed with something like a two-headed resurrection of Marie Hall Ets, so there is probably a great deal to remember about serendipity in these margins.
Also patience. Determination. Here, as in And Then It’s Spring, a little boy seems so alone with his beliefs that if nature proves finally unequal to supplying a happy ending, it’s not hard to imagine him making one up. What happens beneath the ground is a matter of blind, if empirical, faith passed down between generations of farmers and children’s book enthusiasts, but it is nothing compared to the ocean, where I was glad to see these artists apply their gift for possibility. We see ourselves in the ocean, as Herman Melville once noted: “It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.”