Archive for January 27th, 2018

by Sam Juliano

Honey, I am seven fox years old. My father died at seven and a half. I don’t want to live in a hole anymore, and I’m going to do something about it.       -Mr. Fox, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”, 2009.

Marco had it made really.  In his woodland habitat among his own kind he could have all the chicken stew his heart desired.  In the food chain his species were sitting pretty.  All he needed to do was to play the game by the rules.  Don’t make any waves.  Don’t ask any questions.  Don’t take any unnecessary risks.  And above all be pragmatic.  Leaving the box and trying to find out the way of the world could lead to some life-threatening consequences.  In the open wild it was survival of the fittest.  Now if he were to come upon a tree that talked like those indignant apple tossers on the yellow brick road or find out why there wasn’t any uniformity in a song’s temperament, or receive evidence of the sun’s heat and light going through a nocturnal metamorphosis only to be resuscitated daily, perhaps he’d own some bragging rights among his peers, but in the long term his dogged inquiries seems ill-suited for contentment, and his naivete that others of his kind would know some of the world’s well-kept secrets would leave him further in default.  But as little can really be predicted, some surprises can quickly change the status quo, allowing long unanswered questions to go through a period of trial and tribulation.  Marco’s  existential dilemma may have gone unaddressed for a long time if it weren’t for the fantastical arrival of a ship rather spectacularly showcasing two carved wooden antlers, protruding from its bow.  This was Marco’s opportunity to connect with others of his kind, and even perhaps others of a different species who shared his inquisitive mind-set.

The deep-thinker Marco is the creation of a travelling adventure seeker named Dashka Slater, who presently resides in Oakland, California.  Slater’s numerous sea excursions on both coasts no doubt inspired her to conjure up this free spirited woodland Prince of Denmark, one she then turned over to a pair of illustrator American-born brothers, Eric and Terry Fan, who for the time being are working out of Toronto, Canada.  Slater is posing a few adages in this story mirroring Dorothy’s in the immortal L. Frank Baum story-turned-into-beloved-film, one where what you strive to obtain may be right under your nose or that spending time together can alone forge the most indomitable bond.  By the very end of the aptly-titled The Antlered Ship Marco’s questions haven’t abated, but he comes to understand that answers aren’t spoken, but are transcribed by others’ actions.  When Ms. Slater writes:  There were so many questions left to answer.  And so many more to ask she intimates that further sea journeys will bring a deeper understanding of life and human nature.  Slater’s philosophy clearly implies there is no substitute for experience and human interaction and she imparts it persuasively in The Antlered Ship.  Rarely in a children’s picture book has anthropomorphism been so profoundly employed, nor as sagaciously consummated. (more…)

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