A story that beautifully weaves together themes of bereavement, identity and hope, alongside the traditional selkie legend.
Ten-year-old Isla has moved from Edinburgh to the Orkney Islands with her parents, to start a new life after the death of Isla's beloved young brother. Isla's mother's family is from Orkney and her father's is from Africa, and she finds island life is very different to her former city home. Her discovery of the old Orcadian legend about the selkies, half human, half seal people, becomes the key to adjustment and acceptance.
Reviewed by Martin Galway
Corey’s Rock is the illustrated tale of a young girl coming to terms with the loss of a younger sibling as she begins a new life, with her parents, on the Orkney Islands.
Perhaps that single line paragraph might help to make this clear. Perhaps I need to substantiate this claim to ‘specialness’. What makes Corey’s Rock quite so special? Let me count the ways:
First, we have the spiralling poetic language that gently, but insistently, nudges its characters onward, reverberating with the recent past as it echoes across the book. Isla and her parents edge gently forward, drawing closer to something like acceptance, something like recovery, and then something that we might tentatively describe as happiness.
Then we have the illustrations by the highly talented Jane Ray -illustrations that work with and around that poetic language. If you are interested in picturebook codes, there is so much to linger on here. From the stunning cover to the profoundly telling endpapers, and then slowly through the careful use of picture, symbol and space, this is an exceptionally crafted, beautiful dance of word and image. The book needs to be experienced as an unfolding whole.
We also have rich thematic elements. Amnesty International has endorsed the book for illuminating the human rights values of family, friends home, safety and refuge. That is a very fair and accurate summary of much of the books deeper content. To this, I would add the power of storytelling and myth, and how this intertwines with our sense of home and the space around us. Not to mention the role of dreams in sorting out the impossible-to-sort-out.
This is a book – much like Story Like the Wind – that would lend itself to small group study in the junior years for children aged nine and upwards. It provides a chance to explore the interplay of word and image and how these can work to profound effect.
Corey’s Rock is a very special book. A very special book.