Todd-Stanton follows Arthur and the Golden Rope with another engrossing story of an intrepid child. Erin Pike, a fisherwoman’s daughter, is eager to unlock the local legend of Black Rock, which some say “never stays in the same place and... could smash a boat to pieces.” After sneaking onto her mother’s boat, Erin is washed overboard and discovers that Black Rock is an enormous, friendly, rocklike creature that’s also home to a bounty of sea life. But when Erin shares what she has learned, the residents of her coastal town see the creature as a threat. Todd-Stanton creates a striking visual contrast between the rich blue-green depths of the water and the glowing reds and oranges used for the brick, wood, and metal of the human world. There’s a powerful sense of drama in his cartooning and storytelling, as well as a friendliness at play in the artwork that tempers this yarn’s scariest moments. It’s a story that succeeds both as a daring adventure and as a reminder that our own living (if not quite so anthropomorphic) habitat needs to be treated with care. Ages 3–7. (June)
Todd-Stanton’s tale is, at first glance, a deceptively simple tale of acceptance and bravery. However, he deftly infuses his narrative with quiet depth, including a positive ecological slant in which nature wins over machines, and portrays Erin’s single mother succeeding in a typically male-dominated profession. The illustrations are dazzling and vibrantly hued, the rich palette just right for the resplendent undersea scenes that adroitly float young readers’ sense of magic just under the surface of the mundane. A winner on many levels.
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
The gentle environmental message takes on a kind of magic in Todd-Stanton’s pictures of Erin suspended in the ocean among incandescent jellyfish or facing down a monstrous, weaponised fishing fleet in the moonlight. A young artist to watch.
A fairytale world is created that should enchant children as much as the old-fashioned illustrations that fit the story perfectly.
—Youth Services Book Review
The layers of ocean life and the benign Black Rock are beautifully rendered in this wonderfully tactile hardback, while the gently delivered environmental message adds a welcome real-life depth to the modern mythic tale.
An original picture book story that is superbly illustrated from cover to cover, Joe Todd-Stanton's "The Secret of Black Rock" is a compelling and entertaining read for children ages 5 to 8, making it an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections.
—Midwest Book Review
This is an exceptionally illustrated modern folk-tale […] You will love Erin and her large heart, courage, sense of adventure, and ability to stand up for what she believes in!
—A Story A Day
This book is truly an amazing read! […] The illustration is magnificent!
—How Useful It Is
"This book has several great messages within the covers. First, how cool is it that Erin's mother is a fisherwoman with her own boat?? Such a small and awesome way to subvert gender stereotyping. Second is the message of environmental conservation and bravely standing up for what you believe in. Erin feels passionately about saving Black Rock and all of the critters that call it home, and she’s not afraid to take direct action."
—The Tiny Activist
K-Gr 3—In this girl-power import from the UK, Erin lives with her mum (a fisherwoman) and dog Archie near a big fishing town. She cannot go out to sea because of the danger; villagers tell of the mysterious Black Rock that "never stays in the same place…It's big as a mountain and sharp as a swordfish!" When Erin hides away on her mum's boat, she tumbles overboard and comes face to face—literally—with a creature. The black rock outcropping is the top of its head, and its body serves as a reef for all sorts of sea animals. The Black Rock brings her safely home, but there is more work to do; the villagers are set on destroying it and have equipped boats with claws and drills for that purpose. Determined to stop them, Erin jumps onto Black Rock's "nose" and shines a light that attracts sea life to the surface. "In that moment, they [the villagers] saw how wrong they were." The ecological importance of such a creature is highlighted by the unironic construction of a lighthouse on Black Rock to protect it from wayward boats. Todd-Stanton's sketchy illustrations are colored with photoshop and have a retro feel. Printed on heavy matte stock, it's a visceral pleasure to read. Readers will be able to fill in the short expository narrative by poring over the drawings' depictions of Black Rock's underwater existence. VERDICT A fun adventure for large collections.—Lisa Lehmuller, Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School, Providence
After a courageous young girl befriends a legendary creature, she must stop the frightened villagers from attacking it. With ivory hair and pale white skin, Erin Pike lives in a quaint seaside town with her spotted hound, Archie, and her fisherwoman mother. The people of her town all tell tales of the horrible monster Black Rock, a fearsome and gigantic nautical creature capable of moving throughout the seas and tearing boats to pieces. Undaunted by the whispers, Erin stows away on her mother's boat to find the monster. She discovers, however, that Black Rock is a gentle being who follows the plethora of beautiful aquatic life that inhabits the sea. When the townsfolk decide to attack Black Rock, will one small girl be able to stop them? Todd-Stanton's tale is, at first glance, a deceptively simple tale of acceptance and bravery. However, he deftly infuses his narrative with quiet depth, including a positive ecological slant in which nature wins over machines, and portrays Erin's single mother succeeding in a typically male-dominated profession. The illustrations are dazzling and vibrantly hued, the rich palette just right for the resplendent undersea scenes that adroitly float young readers' sense of magic just under the surface of the mundane. A winner on many levels. (Picture book. 3-7)