The Antlered Ship

The Antlered Ship
Dashka Slater and The Fan Brothers
Lincoln Children’s Books

Fox Marco has an insatiable appetite for knowledge: ‘Why don’t trees ever talk? How deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea?’ he wonders while his fellow foxes merely ponder upon the nature of their next meal.

When a huge antlered ship docks at the harbour, Marco goes down to the waterside where he discovers from crew members that the ship has got lost (they admit to being poor sailors).

Intent on discovering more foxes to answer his questions, Marco, along with a flock of pigeons, joins the crew

and they embark on a voyage bound for an island upon which tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees grow.

Their journey is hard: the sailors battle against stormy weather, their own fears and meagre rations. Days of drifting dampen their enthusiasm for adventure and it’s left to Marco to keep up the spirits of his fellow travellers.

Finally though, having fended off a pirate attack,

the ship reaches the island. Thereon his fellow crew members sate their appetites for sweet things but Marco’s hunt for foxes yields not a single one.

Instead though he does make some important discoveries and draws some conclusions about the nature of friendship and community, asking questions and seeking answers.

As with The Night Gardener and The Darkest Night, the Fan Brothers attention to detail in their pen and pencil illustrations is immaculate. Be they seascapes or portrayals of the happenings below deck, there’s a crepuscular quality about many of their richly textured scenes, while those on the island take on the brighter verdant hues of the animals’ surroundings.

Dashka Slater’s is a story to get lost in, and one to provoke questions of the philosophical kind among thoughtful readers and listeners. Who can but marvel at the artistic brilliance of Eric and Terry Fan and delight in the portrayal of such characters as the peg-legged, red bandana sporting pigeon?

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