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"Moby Dick" is a novel by Herman Melville and dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was published in London in October 1851 as "The Whale" and a month later in New York City as "Moby Dick". "Moby Dick" is generally regarded as Melville’s magnum opus and one of the greatest American novels.
The novel is an epic tale of the voyage of the whaling ship the Pequod and its captain, Ahab, who relentlessly pursues the great Sperm Whale (the title character) during a journey around the world. The narrator of the novel is Ishmael, a sailor on the Pequod who undertakes the journey out of his affection for the sea.
Cast and set as part of a timeless and allegorical world, "Moby Dick" is a novel rich in symbolism and metaphor. The names of the characters all have biblical resonances, and the Epilogue begins with a quotation from the Book of Job: “and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” The novel’s extraordinary oddness comprises an encyclopedia of whaling lore, a Biblical meditation on the value of life, and a study of humankind’s relationship with others as well as with nature. The adventures that take place in the novel are so well known that they have entered the American consciousness.
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.