Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Note to children: this is not Melville's Moby Dick. Drummond (The Willow Pattern Story) has transformed the tome of American Lit into a quick-reading, kid-friendly whale of a tale. His inviting approach (which emanates from his obvious love for the story) involves ruthless editing and nonthreatening visuals. He uses pen and pale washes of color (punctuated by just enough red whale gore to suggest the seriousness of the sport) in a cartoonish style and conversation bubbles with handwritten contents to cleverly convey the episodic quality of the text. Ishmael narrates the story here, too, and chapter headings for each spread aid the story's clarity and momentum. Amazingly, the plot is complete in these 32 pages and includes many of the most fascinating details of the mechanics of whaling. Although some children may have trouble with some of the more adult themes (the fact that this is a revenge mission for Ahab, Queequeg builds himself a coffin and only Ishmael survives), whale and sea lovers will learn a great deal (especially in the concluding author's note). By cagily approaching this classic with a light, non-reverential touch, Drummond may predispose a new generation of readers toward experiencing the original work (that they might otherwise only encounter only in Cliffs Notes). Ages 5-up. (Oct.)
The great white resurfaces in this gripping, comic book-style retelling. Comic-strip veterans Schwartz and Giordano condense Melville's leviathan tale into an action-packed, 48-page adventure. Despite forgoing Melville's "Call me Ishmael" first-person narrative and sensory details, this retelling closely adheres to the original plot, including some pivotal scenes absent from Allan Drummond's spare but entertaining 1997 Moby Dick. The dense story clips along, thanks to concise but appealingly hammy storytelling and melodramatic drawings, plus multiple panels that quicken the pace. When Ishmael meets Queequeg, for instance, the author squeezes out every drop of suspense: "There in the dimly lit room looms the forbidding image of Queequeg... harpoon at the ready, poised to sink its sharp head into his shaking body!!" Giordano ratchets up the tension with a series of close-ups of Ishmael's terrified face as he awakens to the "savage" in his rented room. The brooding, dark-toned panels exude imminent danger-an ideal milieu for Captain Ahab's doomed voyage. The book also provides a brief biography of Melville, as well as facts about whaling and New Bedford, Mass., the city that commissioned this retelling in celebration of the 150th anniversary (in 2001) of Moby Dick's original publication. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)
This graphical retelling of one of the greatest works of American literature commemorates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851), the tale of a mad whaling captain obsessed with killing the vicious white whale that bit off his leg. Inked in oceanic blues and sandy shades, the cool-toned illustrations deepen and enrich the story. The non-uniform panels and changes of page layout add drama, but the real excitement comes from Schwartz's retelling that captures the highlights of the plot. The narrative takes lines right from the original text, and Schwartz steps up the pace by using present tense to impact an immediacy and tension to the story. Focusing mainly on the whaling details from the sighting to the kill and beyond, this graphic piece is an education in brief about the massive work of processing whale and about the whaler's way of life at the mercy of the sea and the elements for years at a time. Although the story glorifies whaling at times, the near extinction of some species is not overlooked. A biography of Melville and several pages of information on whales round out the text and provide the environmental slant, making it a balanced, if short, introduction to whaling adventures on the high seas that would be more appropriate for a science class than a literature one. Illus. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Houghton Mifflin, 48p,
Beth Gallaway <%ISBN%>0618265716
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Avast, ye landlubbers! Here's your chance to go whaling for the Big Daddy of them all-with hardly any of the guilt. Melville for toddlers? Why not? Allan Drummond has certainly had fun with this joyous adaptation of the tale. The pages are spread with marvelous watercolors of the great seas and great sea beasts, not to mention the motley crew of the Pequod and Captain Ahab himself. Holding it all together is the selected prose of Melville, still salty from the sea. The end result is irresistible for one and all.
Children's Literature - Tim Whitney
Moby Dick is a classic that is out of reach in terms of reading ability and interest level for most young adult readers. McCaughrean's retelling maintains the style and basic plot of Melville's original without the various subplots and minor details that would confuse and bore young adults. The illustrations of green, yellow and brown complement the text and bring the action within it to life. This version successfully takes the classic into the world of young adult literature.
Children's Literature - Kris Sauer
Can an abridged version of one of literature's great masterpieces do the original justice? Can such an attempt make a dense and sometimes rambling original more accessible to today's technology-inspired readers? The editor himself asks questions along these lines in his author's notes and it is this reviewer's humble opinion that he has quite successfully succeeded. Taking the best of Melville's original text, Needle injects historical references and invaluable observations on the life and times of the day to tell the story of Ahab, Ishmael, and the infamous whale. In doing so, Needle provides today's reader with a greater understanding of the shades of meaning inherent in Melville's lyrical original. A glossary and meticulously detailed drawing of a typical whaling ship provide the reader with even greater context. Raising the bar are Patrick Benson's amazing full-color illustrations and black-and-white sketches, managing quite magnificently to bring Melville's words and Needle's interjections to life. Somewhere between the pleasure (and pain) of the original and the ease of the movie lies this masterful abridged version.
"Call me cheap." This Dover "Giant Thrift" version is currently the most affordable edition of Melville's epic of revenge. Truly no frills but fine for libraries not requiring heavy scholarly editions. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Herman Melville's classic about one man's obsession with the white whale is filled with philosophy, marine biology, history, adventure, and even humor. William Hootkins' voice is superb for the telling of this great sea story, maintaining the attention of listeners even through some of the less adventurous parts. His intonations convey Ishmael's and Captain Ahab's thoughts in a way that helps listeners understand them and their times. Ishmael becomes an actual person and the Captain's madness is real. The individual personalities of each crew member is apparent. Through Hootkins' telling, the history of whaling becomes intriguing. Students who would normally shy away from this classic will find this format enjoyable. Listeners will gain a new appreciation for and understanding of the novel and Melville's times.-Anita Lawson, Otsego High School, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Historically, the two great typographical edifices of West Coast printing are the grabhorn Leaves of Grass and the Nash Divine Comedy. Now the Arion Press MobyDick takes its place beside them…It is the textural West of hand composition that forms the chief glory of this work. Hoyem seems to have found the perfect measure to accommodate text to type. We turn page after page of matchless composition…as the magical result. I would venture the opinion that this constitutes a feat of craftsmanship unexcelled in modern printing.
William Everson, Fine Print
Stuart C. Sherman
A great American addition with features more diverse than those in any previous editions of Melville's classic.
Stuart C. Sherman, Fine Print
From the team behind the adaptation of The Odyssey (1995), an audacious retelling that follows the main story line of Melville's monumental workof Ishmael's tale of Captain Ahab's mad quest for revenge against the giant white whale that took his leg on a previous voyage. While rewrites for children of classic adult literature remain controversial, this one is stunning. The language, through which McCaughrean subtly brings out many of the metaphors of the original text, is unusually ornate for the format, making itdespite its storybook-lookmore appropriate for readers beyond picture books. Although sometimes humorless, the lush prose rockets the story along like a square rigger under full sail, with all the beauty and complexity that entails. Ambrus's ample illustrations are full of character.
McCaughrean largely succeeds in conveying to young readers the mood, language, story, and power of the original. For those disposed to retellings of the classics, this is a prime example of the way to do it.
From the Publisher
"The greatest American novel." —William Faulkner
"The infinite novel. Page after page the text grows in immensity, until it encompasses the whole cosmos." —Jorge Luis Borges
“Moby Dick is quite simply the quintessential sea-faring tale for readers of all ages, in a wonderful new 21st century digital edition.”
Read an Excerpt
Call me Ishmael. This resonant opening of Moby-Dick, the greatest novel in American literature, announces the narrator, Herman Melville, as he with a measure of slyness thought of himself. In the Scriptures Ishmael, a wild man sired by the overwhelming patriarch Abraham, was nevertheless the bastard son of a serving girl Hagar. The author himself was the offspring of two distinguished American families, the Melvilles of Boston and the Gansevoorts of Albany.
Melville's father cast something of a blight on the family escutcheon by his tendency to bankruptcy which passed down to his son. Dollars damn me, the son was to say over and over. When he sat down in the green landscape of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to compose Moby-Dick he was in debt, the father of one son, and another to be born a few days after the publication of the novel in England.
Melville had published five novels previous to Moby-Dick; the first two did well, and then with the capriciousness of the public the subsequent novels failed to please. He was a known literary figure with a fading reputation. How he came upon the courage to undertake the challenging creation of the epical battle between a sea creature, a white whale called Moby Dick, and an old captain from Nantucket by the name of Ahab is one of literature's triumphant mysteries. Add to that, as one reads, that he was only thirty-two years old.
Ten years before, in 1841, he had signed up as a common seaman on the whaling vessel Acushnet bound for the South Seas. Young Ishmael was drawn by the lure of the sea and by the wonder of the whale itself, the Leviathan, the monarch of the deep, "one grand hooded phantom, like asnow hill in the air." Until the discovery of petroleum oil in 1859 and Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent lamp in 1879, whaling was a major commercial occupation in New England. Fortunes were made, grand houses were built, often with a "widow's walk" on the roof that testified to the great dangers of the enterprise. For the crew, service on a whaler was a drastic life of unremitting labor; foul, crowded quarters; bad food in scanty servings; contractual terms for years at miserable wages; brutalized companions picked up from all the ports of the world; tyrannical captains practicing a "sultanism" which Melville abhorred. A ship afloat is after all a prison. Melville was on three whalers in his four years at sea and from each, as we read in Typee and Omoo, the struggle is to escape, as he did when the boats anchored near exotic islands. He wrote about the misery of the whaling life, but not about whaling itself until he came to Moby-Dick. His imaginary whaler, the Pequod, death bound as it is, would be called, for an ordinary seaman, an agreeable berth. Ahab has no interest left beyond his internal struggle with one whale.
Still, there is whaling, the presumption of it. When a whale is sighted small boats are detached from the main vessel and the men engage in a deadly battle to try to match, with flying harpoons, the whale's immense strength and desperation. If the great thing is captured, the deck of the main ship becomes an abattoir of blood and guts. The thick blubber is to be stripped, the huge head to be drained of its oils for soothing ambergris, for candles; the bones of the carcass make their way into corsets and umbrellas and scrimshaw trinkets. Moby-Dick is a history of cetology, an encylopedic telling of the qualities of the fin-back, the right whale, the hyena whale, the sperm whale, the killer whale, classified by size in mock academic form as folio, octavo, and so on.
Information about a vanished world is one thing, but, above all else, this astonishing book is a human tragedy of almost supernatural suspensiveness, written in a rushing flow of imaginative language, poetical intensity, metaphor and adjective of consuming beauty. It begins on the cobbled streets of New Bedford, where Ishmael is to spend a few days before boarding the Pequod in Nantucket. The opening pages have a boyish charm as he is brought to share a bed with a fellow sailor, the harpooner Queequeg, an outrageously tattoed "primitive" who will be his companion throughout the narrative. Great ships under sail gave the old ports a rich heritage of myth, gossip, exaggeration, and rhetorical flights. Ishmael, on a Sunday, visits a whaleman's chapel to hear the incomparable sermon by Father Mapple on Jonah and the whale, a majestic interlude, one of many in this torrential outburst of fictional genius.
As Ishmael and Queequeg proceed to Nantucket, the shadows of the plot begin to fall upon the pages. The recruits are interviewed by two retired sailors who will struggle to express the complicated nature of Captain Ahab. We learn that he has lost a leg, chewed off by a whale, and thus the fated voyage of the Pequod begins. Ahab has lost his leg to a white whale Moby Dick and is consumed with a passion for retribution. He will hunt the singular whale as a private destiny in the manner of ancient kings in a legendary world. However, Ahab is real and in command. The chief mate, Starbuck, understands the folly of the quest, the danger of it, and, as a thoughtful man longing to return to his wife and children, he will speak again and again the language of reason. "Vengeance on a dumb beast that simply smote thee from the blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."
The necessity of Starbuck's human distance from the implacable imperative of Ahab's quest illustrates the brilliant formation of this harrowing tale. But it is Ahab's story, his destiny, and, if on the one hand, he is a shabby, sea-worn sailor long mesmerized by mercurial oceans, he too has a wife at home and a child of his old age. We learn, as the story proceeds, that on a time ashore after his terrible wounding, he had fallen and by way of his whalebone leg been unmanned. He has suffered an incapacity not to be peacefully borne by one who in forty years had spent only three on land. Ahab knows the wild unsuitability of his nature, his remove from the common life.