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Award-winning ‘Over the Ocean’ is first-rate read

Every year, the Newbery and Caldecott awards are given to some of the best children’s books of the year.

But lesser known is the Batchelder Award, given to a book first published in a language other than English, in a country other than the United States.

One of the 2017 Bachelder books is the picture book, “Over the Ocean,” by Taro Gomi.

A Japanese girl in orange-red pants stands on the shore of a teal green ocean.

“What is over the ocean?” she asks. “Maybe there is more ocean over the ocean.”

Her question and hypothesis make sense. The expanse of teal green sky above the white clouds is the same color as the sea.

Form there, her questions grow. Are there farms over the ocean? Cities? Small houses with kids? And what about fairs and animals?

The questions grow until she imagines another beach across the ocean with someone who might be like herself.

I’ve nearly given away the entire story. But believe me, it’s much harder to describe the stark wonder of the illustrations.

The intense teal green dominates each scene. Geometric, cubist-like patterns cover the cities and houses, followed by sweeping movement of fairs and animals.

Most stunning is Gomi’s illustration of “a land of ice,” pierced by the black, white and teal green of an iceberg’s shadows.

Throughout the book, a ship moves on the distant horizon of the ocean, inching from right to left on every page spread.

Yet the girl never moves. Never do we see her face. Instead, we only see the back of her head. We only see what she sees above the horizon.

Slow and stunning, “Over the Ocean” leaves a deep impression about the size of the world, its wonder and the anticipation of interaction.

“Over the Ocean,” by Taro Gomi. First published in Japan in 1979 by Ehonkan Inc. Chronicle books, 2016. 32 pp.

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