APRIL 7 UPDATE: The original May 4 launch date launch has been changed to May 18.
A year before we all retreated to our houses, our family spent an idyllic week at a little resort on Maui’s Napili coast. Our visit coincided with that of a group of retirees from Canada and the US who had met there on previous trips and now regularly return the first week of February. One of them is a singer/guitarist who has a one-man show in Las Vegas. Their tradition is to circle the lounge chairs on the lawn above the beach one night for a sing along. They invited us to join in. He played all the best love songs. We sang. We danced. We rocked our grandchildren on our laps as the sun went down and a crescent moon rose.
That’s when the first lines of OCEAN LULLABY came to me. Song floats up, moon smiles down while we rock to ocean sounds. Shhh, hush. Shhh, hush. The ocean’s soothing song. Shhh, hush. Shhh, hush. We can sing along.
Then I looked out across the surf and started wondering. What do ocean creatures do as night falls? Do they sleep? Do they dream?
That’s how the story progresses.
I learned that adult whales buoy their calves so the calves can continue to breathe while they rest.
After grouping turtles and jellyfish on the same spread, I found out turtles eat jellyfish, so I quickly erected a coral structure to keep them apart.
A diver at the Maui Aquarium told me that resting octopusses (his preferred plural) have a brain pattern similar to humans when they are dreaming.
The monk seals are my favorite spread. As soon as I saw a reference photo with the little guy waving, I wanted to include them.
On May 18 this year – over two years after our trip to Napili beach – OCEAN LULLABY will be published by Philomel. It is the third book my sister Kate Harvey McGee and I have illustrated together. I paint the black lines with a gouache resist technique, doozy them up in Photoshop and email them to Kate who lives near Philomath, OR. She’s a retired landscape architect, now pastel plein air painter, who colors our illustrations in Photoshop. I am so lucky to collaborate with her. I love the way she paints light.
One of the reasons I like to make picture books is because I love my work to be part of a remembered magical circle: those times with my kids, snuggled in the big chair, the neighborhood settling quiet around us, the warmth of their small selves on my lap as we enter a story together. OCEAN LULLABY was crafted for that circle. It ends:
You my sweet, my sleepy child, rest here in my arms awhile. As the new moon rides the sky, dream the ocean lullaby. Shhh, hush. Shhh, hush. Shhhhh…
We hope to set up a zoom event for an official launch soon. Meanwhile, OCEAN LULLABY will be available for sale at all the usual places after May 18. It offers a window to the big world that’s waiting for us out there when the Covid days are over: a world full of dozing whales, dreaming octopuses, snoring monk seals, family and friends.