When Dashka Slater was ten, she wrote a story and must have tucked it away somewhere. As an adult and accomplished writer, both in children's and adult literature, Dashka decided to pull that story out again and rewrite it; that book is The Sea Serpent and Me.
The Sea Serpent and Me is a heart-touching, tale of a child and a sea serpent becoming friends and letting go. Letting go...if you really love someone or something, you have to let it go when it is time to let go, just like in the Bog Baby, only different. In this book, the letting go is instinctual and patient, gentle and mutual. As I read it to my children for the first time, I teared up. Their response to the book was, "again" and "again" and "again". Again and again and again, I tear up as I read this book, and I know why...just as a certain song or painting can move you and remind you of a deeply powerful feeling, when I read this book, I am immediately reminded of the last time my son nursed; it was the same type of letting go.
I became pregnant with my daughter while my son was still nursing, and it was heart-wrenching when all throughout the first trimester my milk supply would decrease more and more and my son would cry, "mama milk all gone". I tried to keep my supply up as much as possible and gritted my teeth through the bone curdling, sore nipple latch-ons, but I have to admit that I was relieved in the third trimester when my colostrum came in and my son slowly stopped nursing with the promise that after the baby was born the milk would be back and they could share. In a very tender moment, a couple of weeks after his sister was born, I told my son that the milk was back and that he was welcome to nurse if he'd like to. He latched on for about two seconds and then whispered, "all done". I had a very strong urge to beg him to try again, but I knew, deep in my heart, that I had to let go. And I know that I will experience this letting go many, many more times in my lifetime of parenting. One of my wise midwives talked about how parenting is a slow progression of letting go, little by little...
Catia Chien's illustrations in this book are soft and playful with a wet and rainy Loch Ness enchantment to them. Catia captures the emotion and mood climate of the story so well and portrays the characters with adoration and trust in their eyes right from the start.
[And if you really fall in love with sea serpents after reading this book, Dashka has a whole list of sea serpent activities to do with children linked on her webpage as well as a how-to for throwing a sea serpent party...did you know that August 7th is National Sea Serpent Day? I didn't either, but now we all do and should celebrate accordingly. My children and I will be making the sock puppets for sure!]
My son asked for this book again at bedtime, and I wonder if, perhaps on some level, it reminds him of that same moment. Maybe not, but I can tell that something about this book touches something in his sweet heart as it does in mine.