Holling Clancy Holling’s books have a style of their own. While telling a story which spans generations, in Seabird, he has also given us a glimpse into the lives of whalers, sea captains, sailors and their families. There is history, geography, marine biology and ship building all woven into the story of a young Ship’s Boy. Ezra Brown is the ship’s boy on a whaling ship in 1832. During his watch, high in the crow’s nest one day, he is entranced by an ivory gull. The sudden, unexpected movements of the ivory gull trigger a memory which prompts him to shout,”Iceberg! Dead Ahead!” His warning saves the ship and a relationship begins.
Soon after his experience with the gull Ezra carves a model of one from walrus tusks with amber, slate, coral and whalebone for the details. He names the model Seabird. As we follow Ezra’s progress we see how his life stays linked with Seabird. Ezra becomes a captain and has a son, who also forms a bond with Seabird. And so the story goes on, spanning 100 years of adventurers in Ezra’s family.
Every second page in the book is a short chapter and the facing page is a painting. Around the text are small but detailed line drawings with notes for the reader. These line drawings give more detail to the story being told. Sometimes they provide background information describing how something was made or formed. There is often extra text around the pictures explaining a process or occurrence.
The book is short enough to read at one sitting but I would recommend doing what my son and I did and read it over a few weeks. I imagine we will probably read it again when he is older and he will glean even more from it than he did this time at age six.