Stormy Fairy Tales – The New York Times


The plot becomes so twisty and fantastical that I lost some interest toward the end, but those same traits might captivate young readers. I was won over, instead, by the beautiful descriptions of frosty branches and starry night skies, of flying across the snow on a sleigh pulled by dogs, but most of all by its heartening message: “We will weather this together.”

Storms of a different kind brew in “Of Salt and Shore,” the debut novel of the Dutch illustrator Annet Schaap, translated by Laura Watkinson. These pages are full of crashing waves, rocky beaches, pirates and mermaids.

Once I picked the book up, I didn’t set it down until I finished it with tears in my eyes, perhaps because it called to mind two beloved books from my own childhood: “The Secret Garden” and “Treasure Island.” I was also moved by Schaap’s exceptional writing, which manages to be lyrical and whimsical, yet unsentimental. Of the three books, it is the most disturbing, but also the most endearing and poignant.

The story begins with Lampie helping her drunken, one-legged father keep the flame burning at the lighthouse, until one stormy night when she forgets to buy matches and, in the darkness, a ship wrecks against the rocks. To punish them both, Lampie is sent to earn her keep at the imposing admiral’s house. The housekeeper forbids her ever to enter the tower room, where a monster is locked away.

Lampie strives to do her work, with hopes of being reunited with her father, but curiosity beckons her to the top of the tower.

There she finds “the monster” hiding under a bed: “It’s actually a kind of boy, Lampie sees. A boy with a head that’s a bit too big. His face is gray and scaly and his tousled hair looks almost green. … His legs have grown together into a dark tail.”

The boy insists he is deformed; Lampie begins to suspect he is something much more magical and surprising. In some of my favorite scenes, the boy teaches self-doubting Lampie how to read and she helps him to escape his own prison.



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