- Age Range: 4 - 8 years
- Grade Level: Preschool - 3
- Lexile Measure: 590 (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 48 pages
- Publisher: Beach Lane Books (September 12, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 148145160X
- ISBN-13: 978-1481451604
- Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 90 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Antlered Ship Hardcover – September 12, 2017
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—A fox sets sail in search of answers to questions about life, the universe, and everything in this picture book fantasy. Marco the fox wonders about many things, but the other foxes are more concerned with chicken soup than with philosophy. When an antlered ship appears, captained by deer traveling to an island of "tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees," Marco seizes the opportunity to seek out other foxes who may have answers. The crew sails across treacherous seas, triumphing over sharp rocks and fierce pirates before arriving safely at Sweet Tree Island. Alas, there are no foxes to be found, and Marco's travels have only yielded more questions. Yet, he also has new friends and the chance for further adventures—perhaps that is enough. Slater's adventure narrative is an epic journey with a classic feel, perfectly scaled for a picture-book audience. The straightforward text is lyrical, rhythmic, and begs to be read aloud. Graphite-and-pen illustrations by the Fan Brothers depict expressive, realistically drawn animals sporting the occasional hat or bandanna. As the distinctive prow of the antlered ship sails through ethereal seascapes, young audiences can follow its path through the detailed maps included on the endpapers. VERDICT Marco's discovery that the world is full of questions, but not always answers, is at once profound and entirely accessible to young audiences. Make this gently thrilling celebration of life's big questions a first-purchase.—Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN
Fan brothers bring their arresting artistry, first seen in The Night Gardener (2016), to Slater’s tale of
Marco, an inquisitive fox searching for answers in the wider world. Marco’s rather philosophical mind is
teeming with questions: “Why don’t trees ever talk? How deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea?”
The unexpected arrival of a large ship—adorned with a magnificent masthead of a stag’s tree-like
antlers—offers Marco the chance to seek out the answers his fellow foxes can’t provide. Marco joins the
ship's deer crew, along with a flock of adventurous pigeons, and the animals set sail for Sweet Tree Island.
Their journey is fraught with stormy seas, paltry meals, sharp rocks, and a pirate hoard, but once safely on
the island Marco gains some insight at last. Finely detailed illustrations in graphite and ballpoint pen evoke
the dramatic moments of Slater’s story as effectively as the contemplative, such as when turbulent greengray
seas give way to a star-studded sky, or in the peachy sunset washing over Marco and his new friends.
Young readers will revel in the whimsical touches, like the peg-legged pigeon sailor and the imaginative
map gracing the book’s endpapers. This gorgeous, eye-opening adventure is an engrossing reading
experience that proudly touts curiosity and finding friendship in kindred spirits.
— Julia Smith (Booklist, STARRED REVIEW June 1, 2017)
A philosophical fox full of questions boards a ship with strangers and discovers that finding friends is even better than finding answers. Russet-furred Marco wonders about everything. His fellow foxes care mainly about dinner. When a great, antlered wooden ship, captained by a deer named Sylvia, docks in the harbor, Marco goes down to see it. Intrigued by the possibility of finding other foxes who share his curiosity, Marco decides to set sail, as do an adventurous flock of pigeons led by Victor, pictured as a one-legged bird in a bandanna. While they struggle a bit with the unfamiliar tasks and are beset by the typical dangers that sailors face, Marco, Sylvia, and Victor each contribute to the success of their journey. In the mostly dreamy, delicate pen-and-pencil illustrations, colored digitally, Marco the fox and the other animals are shown as sapient but not completely anthropomorphized. The antlered ship is delightfully detailed and decorated, the pirates our heroes encounter are appropriately toothy and threatening (even the cutlass-wielding mouse), and the sepia-colored maps on the endpapers feature deliciously evocative names. The old-fashioned appearance of the Fans' artwork perfectly suits Slater's contemplative, musing tone. While the ending is hardly a surprise, it feels right, true, and not the least bit clichéd. A beautifully composed package filled with whimsy and wisdom—the story of this unique vessel will inspire and entertain thoughtful listeners. (Picture book. 4-7) (Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW 7/15/17)
Marco, a fox, thirsts to know everything: “Why don’t trees ever talk? How deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea?” A ship appears off the coast of Marco’s forest. It’s crewed by deer (they’re poor sailors, they admit), and its figurehead is a stag with a massive set of antlers. Together with a flock of pigeons, Marco embarks on a nautical adventure in hopes of locating foxes who can answer his questions. The sailors encounter storms, dangerous rocks, and pirates before finding the island refuge they seek. In spreads that evoke seafaring motifs from the Odyssey to Treasure Island, the Fan brothers (The Night Gardener) lavish care on every delicate detail, from the ship’s rigging to the foam on the waves. Breathtaking seascapes alternate with cozy scenes below decks as predators and prey huddle peaceably. Slater (Escargot) creates a story to lose oneself in, an adventure packed with risk and possibility. The ship becomes a community, and Marco and his questions part of its journey. (Publishers Weekly *STARRED REVIEW July 24, 2017)
A fox sets sail in search of answers to questions about life, the universe, and everything in this picture book fantasy. Marco the fox wonders about many things, but the other foxes are more concerned with chicken soup than with philosophy. When an antlered ship appears, captained by deer traveling to an island of “tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees,” Marco seizes the opportunity to seek out other foxes who may have answers. The crew sails across treacherous seas, triumphing over sharp rocks and fierce pirates before arriving safely at Sweet Tree Island. Alas, there are no foxes to be found, and Marco’s travels have only yielded more questions. Yet, he also has new friends and the chance for further adventures–perhaps that is enough. Slater’s adventure narrative is an epic journey with a classic feel, perfectly scaled for a picture-book audience. The straightforward text is lyrical, rhythmic, and begs to be read aloud. Graphite-and-pen illustrations by the Fan Brothers depict expressive, realistically drawn animals sporting the occasional hat or bandanna. As the distinctive prow of the antlered ship sails through ethereal seascapes, young audiences can follow its path through the detailed maps included on the endpapers. VERDICT Marco’s discovery that the world is full of questions, but not always answers, is at once profound and entirely accessible to young audiences. Make this gently thrilling celebration of life’s big questions a first-purchase.
(School Library Journal September 2017)
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It was Marco that saw the antlered ship when it arrived, lost, at his island’s harbor. Until then he had found that for all that he was bursting with questions about the world (“Why don’t trees ever talk? Why is water so wet?”) none of the other foxes on his island ever took any interest in answering them. Perhaps if he joined the ship and set forth to sail to sea he’d find an island where foxes thought the way he did. The journey, however, is not without peril. The deer that crew it are a fearful bunch and the pigeons that sign on uneasy with the amount of work involved. It is Marco who steers them out of storms and misery. It is the pigeon Victor that leads the ship through the sharpest of rocks. And it is the deer Sylvia gives the orders to fight off piratical invaders. In the end, Marco does not find what he thought he was looking for. He finds something better. He finds friends and a purpose.
So what does a quest picture book entail? Well, first and foremost you need to bond the reader to the main character. This can happen any number of ways. You might see the hero being kind to a friend, as in “Nobody Likes a Goblin” by Ben Hatke. Or you might make them sympathetic in some way. In “Journey” by Aaron Becker we see a girl try and fail to get the attention of her mother, father, and older sister. The child reader, regardless of whether or not they have siblings or parents of their own, can relate. Similarly, in “The Antlered Ship” the fox character is different from its compatriots. The other foxes aren’t mean to it or anything, but when it asks questions ranging from the mundane to the philosophical they respond with honest bafflement. He doesn’t fit in. And instantly we understand why he must leave. Next the adventure must involve travel in some way. Ships do very well in these narratives. "Three Bears in a Boat" by David Soman, for example, knew this. Finally, there's the ending. Either the hero goes home, the quest over, or the quest itself is the goal. I think you'll understand which of these apply to this book.
Not every picture book makes me think long and hard about its moral but “The Antlered Ship” really gave me food for thought. Not initially, though. The first time I read it I found it visually stimulating but less than entirely enthralling from a storytelling perspective. Happily this feeling changed when I read the book to my small children. Suddenly I found the text improved massively when I was able to read it aloud. This proved to be most true when Marco feels that he has failed in his quest and discusses the matter with Sylvia and Victor. His goal was to find people like himself that are interested in big questions. As it turns out, Sylvia and Victor are not averse to Marco’s questions and are even willing to debate them with him. When he asks, “And what’s the best way to find a friend you can talk to?” they proffer ideas until he concludes, “… I think you make friends by asking them questions.” That’s such an interesting idea to me. It’s basically saying that friendship is largely rooted in showing interest in people outside of yourself. In moving beyond your own self-centered worldview. Not a bad lesson for a picture book, eh?
It seems funny to delay it this long, but I haven’t really said anything about the art so far, have I? This is particularly odd when you consider that for many people the art is going to be the primary draw of the book. The Fan Brothers rose to prominence when their previous book “The Night Gardener” (not to be confused with the Jonathan Auxier novel of the same name) appeared on a slew of Mock Caldecott and Best Of lists. Suddenly everyone was very interested in what these Fan Brothers might do. For my part, I liked “The Night Gardener” perfectly well but it didn’t quite do it for me. You know that feeling you get when you know an author or an illustrator is capable of so much more than their most recent project? I knew these guys had an “Antlered Ship” inside somewhere. I just had to wait around long enough to see it.
And what a visual feast this puppy is too. First and foremost its publisher, Beach Lane Books, has spared no expense in its make-up. They’ve even gone so far as to spend extra money to make the book as pleasant a tactile experience as it is a visible one. Go on. Touch the cover. Feel the high caliber paper stock. I don’t mean to be beholden to blatant pandering on the part of a publisher, but combining that feel with that cover image is a rare bit of marketing genius. Then we get to the art. Where “The Night Gardener” relegated itself primarily to blues and blacks and grays, “The Antlered Ship” is a dawn and magic hour story. No sky is ever a clear baby blue. They are are rose and peach at down, gray and white in storms, deep navy and white at night, and sometimes that strange misty white you get on a day when the sky isn’t really any color at all. Watch what the Fan Brothers do with their skies as the book progresses. There’s a method to their madness here.
The delicacy of the images is also of particular note. Watching the care with which they render not just the antlered ship but also the ship of the invading pirates I was reminded of that old seafaring picture book classic, “The Island of the Skog” by Steven Kellogg. That book too took an interest in sailing and small woodland creatures. Here, the meticulousness of the Fan pens and pencils is not limited to rigging and figureheads. The animals also show a great deal of loving care. The first time you officially meet Victor and his pigeon crew you get a very good look at the iridescent feathers that grace their throats. Rock pigeons are such lovely creatures, it’s nice to see them get their due. The art is also not without humor. I have spent more time than I care to mention staring at deformed pigeon feet on the streets of Manhattan, so giving a pigeon a peg leg seemed an act of mercy as well as humor. Oh. And I should note that if you’re thinking long and hard about how precisely deer and pigeons would go about raising and lowering the sails on a boat as massive as this one, then maybe this is not the book for you.
If I have any objection to the book, it is the ending. Not that the ending is bad or falls flat necessarily. It just happens to be about four pages too long. Slater actually caps off the book’s text perfectly when she writes, “There were so many questions left to answer. And so many more to ask.” The first time I read this aloud I remember giving a satisfied sigh… until I turned that page and found that inexplicably the book was still going. What valuable information is contained on those last four pages? Just the fact that the friends are, indeed, still sailing on the ship together, just as they’d discussed before. Now I know all too well that picture books are hampered considerably by page counts that they cannot shift, no matter how much they’d like to. That’s one of the reasons I like them so much. Just the same, there are workarounds. Wordless breathtaking spreads are one magnificent way of taking care of the issue. The way the book stands now, it feels like the author doesn’t trust the reader to accept that the birds, deer, and fox will continue their adventures and that we need some kind of visual proof.
Like all good adventure tales the story begins with a hero’s quest and takes that hero not to their intended destination, but to what they were actually searching for deep down all along. In this way, the adventure book is not all that different from an adult novel. Joseph Campbell would, I like to think, approve of “The Antlered Ship”. It is, I should note, a quiet adventure, best suited to bedtimes and one-on-one readings rather than exciting group readalouds. But for those children that are allowed to dive deep into its sweetly saturated pages, the book has the capability of sequestering its images deep into the innermost folds of their little brains. This is a book that will find its ways into their dreams for decades upon decades upon decades to come. Could a book ask for anything more?
For ages 4-7