The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles book cover

This is one of those “wow” books, where both the illustrations and the text are perfectly matched and tell a beautiful, and quietly moving story.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
by Michelle Cuevas; illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016
Picture book, fiction
Description: 1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 26 x 28 cm
Interest Level: K-5; Read Level: 4.9
Lexile measure: 760
5 out of 5 stars

This is a very original, and creative story about a lonely man who works to deliver messages that people have cast into the ocean in bottles, but what makes this book stand above others are the absolutely incredible illustrations by Erin Stead.

Stead’s illustrations capture the melancholy and isolation that the man feels as he goes about his lonely job. The woodblock prints, oil pastels, and pencil illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the text that reads like poetry:

Sometimes the messages were very old, crunchy like leaves in the fall.
Sometimes the messages were written by a quill dipped in sadness.
But most of the time they made people quite happy, for a letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl.

There is a mystery in the story, when the Uncorker receives a letter that isn’t addressed to a specific person. He searches for the intended recipient, but to no avail. What happens next is beautiful and magical.

Adults will read a lot into the meaning of the story, but I think children are able to appreciate it for its beauty and distinctiveness. This would make a wonderful read-aloud. Children could answer the question, “What message would you send in a bottle and to whom?”

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