Who writes letters and sends them out into the ocean to be guided by the changing currents? Dreamers. Believers in serendipity. Someone searching for hope. A lost soul. Someone in need of a friend. I have wondered about this question before. One I’ve never pondered is, who finds and delivers these messages in bottles? The important job is that of The Uncorked of Ocean Bottles, a quiet man who “always kept his eyes on the waves, watchful for a glint of glass.”
My eldest two children are seven (almost) and nine. This book is a gentle, heartening story for their age group. Cuevas’ description is beautiful. “…he would journey until his compass became rusty and he felt loneliness as sharp as fish scales. Sometimes the messages were very old, crunchy like leaves in the fall. Some 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.” Stead’s illustrations, created using woodblock prints, oil pastels and pencils, are soft and serene. Each character is unique, and depicted with care. We imagined them as real people and wanted to learn more about them. The last double page spread shares a quiet moment, where the Uncorker’s heart is “a glass vessel filled to the brim.” It’s a stunning scene.
The Uncorked of Ocean Bottles is a treasure that speaks of loneliness, longing, hope, and the warmth that friendship brings.