Saturday, September 16, 2017

Review: The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater

by Dashka Slater
Illustrated by Eric&Terry Fan
Beach Lane Books
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8
48 pages

An inquisitive fox sets off on a seafaring voyage with a crew of deer and pigeons in this enchanting tale of friendship and adventure.

Marco the fox has a lot of questions, like: how deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea? And why do birds have such lizardy feet? But none of the other foxes share his curiosity. So when a magnificent ship adorned with antlers and with a deer for a captain arrives at the dock looking for a crew, Marco volunteers, hoping to find foxes who are as inquisitive as he is that can answer his questions. The crew finds adventure and intrigue on their journey. And, at last, Marco finds the answer to his most important question of all: What’s the best way to find a friend you can talk to?


By opening the first page, the reader enters the salty world of high-sea adventure, where winds blow through the hair, waves rock every step and the answers to every question lay on the horizon.

Fox has many questions about the world, ones that the other foxes don't understand. When an antlered ship appears on the horizon, and the captain searches for a crew to sail to a faraway island, fox decides to join in on the adventure. And perhaps, he'll find the answer to his questions along the way.

Just picking this book up is already an invitation to enter something special. The book jacket doesn't only portray the perfect atmosphere of misty, ocean adventures, but the jacket itself is made with a slightly tougher and rougher paper. The inside of the book displays sea maps with foreign islands and sailing routes--perfect to set off young navigators' dreams. And that's exactly what the illustrations in this book are--a dream. Each one is an artwork in itself and lets the atmosphere come across. It's worth grabbing up this tale just to gaze through the pictures and be lost in world of water, ships and waves.

The tale itself hits the basic question of finding friends. Although fox has many existential questions, which hit upon the meaning of life and beyond, this book focuses on seeking out others who have the same interests as you, or at least, finding friends who are ready to stand at your side. Fox finds the answer to his basic questions, although these answers might be a bit above some younger listeners' heads, since it's never directly stated but rather implied like a passing fog.

As to the adventure, it will spark the interest of pirating and high-sea adventure fans. The crew isn't what one would expect, which is sure to catch young listeners' attention. There is a bit of tension when pirates appear, and the solution is quite clever. Unfortunately, this 'action' scene is done almost as fast as it starts. . .like the rest of the tale. The plot passes by a bit quick and would have benefited from a little more time and several more pages.

Still, peering through this book is like gazing into a fantastical dream. The illustrations are what makes this a tale to pick up and gaze at time and again.

And here they are. . .

The author. . .

Dashka Slater's four picture books have won widespread praise for their inventive language and vivid imagery. Baby Shoes was named one of the best children's books of 2006 by both Booklist and Nick Jr. magazines and was chosen for the Texas 2x2 list of best books for children age two to grade two. The Sea Serpent and Me was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a finalist for the Cybil and Chickadee Awards, as well as being named to the 2008 Librarians' Choice List of the best books for children and young adults Dangerously Ever After was named the 2013-14 Surrey Picture Book of the Year based on the votes of over 12,700 elementary school students. A recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship for the National endowment for the Arts, slater is also an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in such publications as Newsweek, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, and Mother Jones. She is also the author of a novel for adults, The Wishing Box, which the Los Angeles Times named to its list of the year's best fiction in 2000.

The Illustrators. . .

Eric Fan is an artist and writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. Born in Hawaii and raised in Toronto, he attended the Ontario College of Art and design, where he studied illustration, sculpture, and film. He has a passion for vintage bikes, clockwork contraptions, and impossible dreams. The Night Gardener is his first children's book. See more of his work at and on Facebook (Eric Fan Illustrations).

Terry Fan  received his formal art training at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. His work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. He spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. The Night Gardener is his first book. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto. Visit him online at and and on Facebook (Terry Fan Illustration).

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