Ocean Meets Sky

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Ocean Meets Sky Book Poster Image
Boy remembers his grandfather in magical, visual tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of boats of yore and aircraft pictured: sailing ships, submarines, hot air balloons, dirigibles. Various types of seashells pictured: conch, scallop, etc. Various types of fish pictured. The "Library Islands" shows piles of books, spine out. Kids' titles include Treasure Island, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Secret Garden, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and sharp-eyed readers will spy the Fan Brothers' own The Night Gardener.

Positive Messages

When people we loved have passed away, their spirits are still with us, watching over us. When we miss people, our memories help keep them alive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Finn and his grandfather had a close, loving relationship. When Finn misses him, he constructs a boat "in his honor." The grandfather continues to watch over and guide young Finn. HIs mother keeps the spirit and memory of the grandfather alive by cooking his favorite dumplings.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ocean Meets Sky by the ultra-talented brothers Terry and Eric Fan (The Night Gardener) is a magical story about a young boy of Asian descent remembering his grandfather. The two are first pictured sharing stories around a table, with the moonlit sea sparkling in the window behind them. "To honor" him, Finn builds a boat and sets off on a journey, guided by a golden fish who takes him into magical, seafaring worlds. There's so much gorgeous art to pore over, and the book, entrancing and never didactic, carries the implicit, reassuring message that even though the grandfather's passed on, he's still with Finn, smiling down on him. This beautiful book will stand up to many rereadings and suggests a comforting way for kids to think about lost family members or other loved ones.

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What's the story?

In OCEAN MEETS SKY, Finn recalls conversations with his grandfather "who would've been ninety years old today" about “a place far away where ocean meets sky.” Finn builds a boat, falls asleep, and when he wakes up, the boat sails to open sea where Finn meets "a great golden fish." The fish has whiskers similar to the grandfather's, and Finn follows the fish to a magical land. Is this where ocean meets sky? As the fish swims toward the moon, Finn hears someone calling him from far away, waking him. It's his mom, who tells him she "made Grandpa’s dumplings." Finn looks up at the moon, which now resembles the face of his grandfather smiling down at him.

Is it any good?

Readers are in excellent hands with the Fan Brothers, who here pair their trademark gorgeous art with a family story that's emotionally resonant and comforting. The art in Ocean Meets Sky is entrancing, but the story's also tightly crafted and satisfying. Early on, Finn's shown gazing out the window with a toy boat and framed photo of his grandfather beside him on the ledge. When he flashes back to his grandfather, they're sitting at a table with shells, a pipe, and a carved whale, images that the Fan Brothers bring back during Finn's magical journey. The past is present as the pipe reappears as a cloud, the shells as "an island of giant shells," and the whale floats in the sky as part of Finn's fantastic vision. Astute readers will note that the great golden fish that guides Finn has the same drooping Fu Manchu mustache as his grandfather, as does the smiling moon in the sky. And when his mom wakes him at the end for a dinner of "Grandpa’s dumplings," the cozy family unit feels warm and complete.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the magical world in Ocean Meets Sky. What are some of the things Finn sees there? If you imagine your own magical world, what would you like to include?

  •  Why do you think the fish and moon both have faces that resemble Finn's grandfather?

  • Has any you loved passed away? What do you miss about them? Do you ever feel that they’re still close to you, the way Finn felt the presence of his grandfather?

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