The day this book came in the mail, three adults monopolized it while our children begged for a look. "Just a sec," we kept saying. We were so captivated by the artwork that we stood in the kitchen staring at the pages, vaguely aware that the kids were in the next room catapulting off the furniture.
Thomas Locker's oil paintings are worthy of all the synonyms of "superb," and it's certainly a temptation to list them. "Where the River Begins" and "Sailing With the Wind" are two notable books that he recently illustrated and wrote. In "The Boy Who Held Back the Sea," he solos as artist to Lenny Hort's charming retelling of "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates."
Seventeenth-Century Holland is the backdrop for this classic story, the paintings reminiscent of the Dutch masters Vermeer and Rembrandt. You should see the stone village in torchlight as guards arrest a peg-legged pirate. A seascape under a full moon is miraculously luminescent; notice, too, the clouds, dramatic in every scene, as ever present as the windmills.
The boy Jan discovers that "the mighty ocean (is) leaking through a small hole in the dike." At first, nobody in town believes him because Jan is notoriously naughty, always daydreaming about sea monsters and, worse, refusing to go to church. You know the rest.