Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Serpent Came to Gloucester

The Serpent Came to Gloucester

M.T. Anderson
Illustrator:   Bagram Ibatoulline 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 10
Candlewick, 2005   ISBN: 978-0763620387

It was a lovely bright sunny day when the boy first saw the sea serpent. Of course the people in Gloucester town were horrified to see such a dreadful monster cavorting in the waters right off their coast. The boy quickly realizes that all the sea serpent is doing is playing and soon enough it becomes a permanent fixture, something to be proud of.

In fact the people in Gloucester like the sea serpent so much that when he leaves for the winter they "were sorry and sulked." Anxiously they all wait to see if the wonderful creature will come back when "the eelgrass is once again green."

In the next year though something appalling happens; sailors and whalers come in droves threatening to kill the beast. They go after the animal in big ships and armed with all sorts of fearsome weapons. The boy hopes that the sea serpent will stay far away but in vain for at last the hunters find their quarry. It is only when they bring their prize home that they discover what they really have caught in the nets and what they have speared with their hideous harpoons.

Beautifully written poetry which is presented almost in the form of a song carries the reader though a wonderful story which perfectly accompanies the luscious paintings of Bagram Ibatoulline. Based on a true story of a sea serpent which was seen off the coast of Gloucester in 1817, this wonderful story with its surprising ending brings to life a time long gone when playful sea serpents could play in the ocean. Magical and evoking a feeling of cherished memories, the boy narrator's story will fascinate monster lovers of all ages.