Before I had even read the synopsis for this delightful picture book, I was drawn in by the cover art that is eye catching and full of promise of a great story for all ages. I’m a sucker for awesome cover art when it comes to books, especially picture books; it really helps to set the stage when I’m wondering exactly what kind of illustrations they will be within the book. Will they be bright? Will they be fun? Will they really capture the attention of the reader?
In the case of Off & Away by Cale Atkinson, I was completely in awe of the beautiful, exciting illustrations that covered the inside pages of this book. They were bright, fun, and told a story without even needing to read the words, although they told a story that is fantastic, as well.
Jo and her dad live way out in the middle of the ocean, where they deliver mail to the sea creatures, islanders, and fellow boaters who might pass by. But it isn’t just any mail – they are the messages in bottles that are known for being mysterious, fun, and waiting to be read by just about anyone. Jo’s dad can determine which bottle needs to be delivered to each recipient, and he goes on adventures where he delivers them, coming home to tell Jo the exciting stories he has from days on the sea.
Jo, however, is too afraid to go out on the sea by herself, so she does not accompany her father on his mailings, but she does love hearing his stories.
One day, Jo’s father comes down with an illness and no matter how hard he tries, he cannot get to work. This means that there is no one to deliver the messages in the bottles that he is known for taking care of! Afraid, Jo knows she must step in and help out, and she sets out on her own sea adventure, conquering her fears as she goes. When she comes across something she is absolutely terrified of, she learns that maybe everything we once thought as scary might not be so scary after all.
Off & Away is such an inspiring book for both kids and adults. I love the message it conveys: sometimes your greatest fears aren’t as big and scary as you once thought. I really love when children’s picture books have important messages within the pages, and I think that there’s a lot that kids can take away from this – especially children who might be afraid of something and want to conquer their fears.
The fun illustrations are both amusing and exciting, and really held the attention of my five and eight year old daughters. They both love reading, and I knew they would enjoy this book, but they seemed to enjoy it more than I thought – in fact, I’ve caught them snuggled up on the couch reading it together more times than I can count already. Hey, as an adult? This book is definitely one that I will add to my favorites shelf, as well – it has everything that I love in a picture book, plus some.
I truly cannot wait to see more work from this incredibly talented author/illustrator.
Cale Atkinson is an illustrator/writer/animator currently residing in Kelowna Canada. Believing in tea more than sleep, Cale is constantly working on numerous projects. His work can be found in children’s books, animated shorts, television, and games.
Cale’s always looking for new and exciting projects that challenge his skills and allow him to grow creatively.
Clients: Disney Hyperion, Marvel, Tundra books (imprint of Penguin Random House), OWL Books, Grosset and Dunlap (Penguin), Disney.com, Pearson, American Greetings, Hyper Hippo Games, Lerner Books, Scholastic.
Cale is currently working on multiple projects, including two picture books he is writing and illustrating.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of OFF AND AWAY, US Only.