This adventure book by Sam Ita is published by Sterling Publishing Co. and is written for kids ages 6 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Comic-book-style graphics and intricate pop-up art relate a condensed version of Herman Melville's classic tale. Ishmael, a young man, meets Queequeg, a former cannibal, and they find work aboard the same ship, Captain Ahab's Pequod, as whale harpooners. When the ship's oil — extracted from harpooned whales — begins to leak out of the casks, Ahab refuses to return so what is left can be sold and forces his crew to keep searching for the great white whale, Moby Dick. Years earlier the mammal took Ahab's leg (he has a peg leg now), and revenge drives Ahab's life. When the Pequod finds Moby Dick, everyone and everything except Ishmael is destroyed. Ishmael is rescued by another ship.
Queequeg says that he is in England to learn about the Christian God, but no corresponding actions support his statement, except that he goes to church. A church scene is depicted as a full spread of pop-up art on the same page as a YoJo god (see "Other beliefs"). Queequeg sits next to Ishmael and sleeps. The preacher's sermon is about the story of Jonah. When the preacher talks about a great fish swallowing Jonah, Ishmael questions how a man can fit inside the belly of a whale and doubts that such a thing is possible. The pop-up art is of Jonah in the belly of a sea monster. Of course, Ishmael eventually meets Moby Dick, an enormous white whale whose stomach is large enough to hold a man. Doubts about the Christian faith are presented in a number of places, but the doubts are not reasoned with or answered. Captain Ahab, who is filled with selfish revenge, is the only person to say that there is only one God. Ahab justifies that statement by relating it to himself, as he is the only captain of the Pequod.
Ahab is the captain of the Pequod and is set on revenge. Nothing else seems to matter. Captain Gardiner, the captain of another ship, has lost his son in a fight against Moby Dick. He searches for his lost son even though he knows the boy is probably dead. Ahab will not help Captain Gardiner search. In the end, Captain Gardiner rescues Ishmael.
Other Belief Systems
Queequeg is from a small island, and he says his tribe, implied to be cannibals, will make him king if he returns. When Ishmael first meets him, Queequeg has returned from trying to sell a shrunken head. Queequeg says he is learning Christian ways, but when Ishmael asks if Queequeg thinks God is real, Queequeg says he is and shows Ishmael a small statue of YoJo. After being on the ship a while, Queequeg lies in a coffin and refuses to eat. One man says it's a ritual of Queequeg's tribe. Queequeg is waiting for death. On the ship, the men work hard, but when they are allowed a break, they turn to drinking
Captain Ahab says that Moby Dick is from h---'s heart. Moby Dick's attack and the destruction of the Pequod are illustrated with pop-up art. Kids can move a flap to recreate the whirlpool that pulls the crew to its death. The art is not realistic or gory but illustrated like a comic book.
Note: The pop-up art and comic book style are geared toward young readers — ages 6 and up. However, the story itself is dark, and the issues covered — revenge, death and doubts about God — are for an older audience.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Moby Dick shows how revenge is the downfall of Captain Ahab and his crew. How can revenge destroy things in your life?
- How did revenge govern this story? Did the need for revenge by others help or hurt the main character?
- Who do you think was the most selfish person in this book? What made him selfish, and how did his actions affect others?
- Which characters doubted God? What were their doubts based on?
- How did the graphics make dark subjects appealing? How did it help you understand the story? How did it get in the way of your understanding this story?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.