A Drop of the Sea
A Drop of the Sea
A Drop of the Sea is a simple, sweet story about how sincere love can motivate actions. Children will nod in approval when Ali embarks on his difficult journey to satisfy his great-grandmother’s unfulfilled wish.
Ingrid Chabbert’s hero is little Ali who lives with his great-grandmother in the desert. Chabbert uses spare prose to establish a tight bond between the old and the young. Great-grandma seems to be taking care of Ali, but Ali looks after her, too, picking dates for her from the hundred-year-old palm tree nearby. They look at the stars together from the roof of their clay house and lead a quiet life where nothing seems to change.
But Ali notices that great-grandmother is changing. She’s becoming breathless and has trouble walking. She is aging, and he fears the future.
At her side, he asks softly, “Great-grandma, have all of your dreams come try?”
Surprised, she looks at him, and sighs.
“You don’t want to answer?”
“I do, my dear Ali. I was thinking…”
“So tell me, then. The truth.”
“I think all of my little-girl and grown-up dreams have come true. Except…”
Great-grandmother says she always wanted to see the sea, but now her infirmities prevent her from going. With a few dates to nourish him and an empty pail in hand, Ali decides to bring the sea to her. His journey into the unknown, away from the security of the clay house and the desert, is scary, but he arrives at the seashore. Wasting no time (he fears what could have happened to great-grandma in his absence), he fills the pail with sea water and walks home.
His gift is greeted with love and appreciation. Only a few drops of sea water remain, but Great-grandma holds them with reverence as if she were at the seaside herself. “Oh, Ali, this is one of the most beautiful days of my life!” she exclaims, knowing this moment will stay in Ali’s heart long after she is gone.
French writer Chabbert (The Day I Became a Bird, (Vol. XXIII, No. 10, November 11, 2016) The Last Tree (Vol. XXIII, No. 26, March 17, 2017) and others) has told a poignant story about the link between the very old and the very young, the growing-stronger and the growing-weaker. Setting the story in northern Africa provides parents and teachers with the opportunity to talk about how people live outside of North America and Europe.
The equally spare illustrations by Spain’s Raul Nieto Guridi capture the muted sand-yellow colour of the desert. His use of plain white or black for the different times of day represent the wide open spaces of the desert and the quiet strength of the relationship. The drawings show the gravity of Ali’s concern about honoring his great-grandmother’s wishes, but Guridi injects playfulness and humour in the shapes of the two characters. Ali has a tiny body and a huge head, Great-grandma is a bigger version of the same thing, all head with tiny legs and feet. A child who feels a kinship with an older adult will identify with the way Guridi presents Ali and his great-grandma.
A Drop of the Sea will stay in the hearts of children for a long time. Teachers, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents should read this story to their young charges who will ask for it over and over.
Harriet Zaidman is a freelance and children’s writer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her middle grade novel, set in the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, will be released next year.