2016 in [Book] Review Books Picture Books Reading Themes

A Meditation on Solitary Existence in “The Uncorker Of Ocean Bottles”


Myra here.

Ever since I saw this picturebook shared by trusted friends in the blogosphere, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I am glad to have found it in our libraries.


The Uncorker Of Ocean Bottles

Written by: Michelle Cuevas Illustrated by: Erin E. Stead
Published by: Dial Books For Young Readers, 2016 ISBN: 0803738684 (ISBN13: 9780803738683)
Borrowed a copy from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me. 

The Uncorker Of Ocean Bottles had one job in the world. He needed to keep an eye out for a “glint of glass” that would indicate a message is floating out into the sea – and for him to deliver it to the recipient.


His is a quiet, solitary life that derives meaning from letters that find its way to people whose faces light up from messages “written by a quill dipped in sadness.”


In his heart of hearts, though, the uncorker of ocean bottles sometimes wishes that he would receive a message all his own.

But then he remembered that this was about as likely as finding a mermaid’s toenail on the beach. For he had no name. He had no friends. He stank of seaweed and salt and fishermen’s feet. No one would ever write him a letter.


Those lines stuck with me. Imagine being this man with only a cat for company, staring out into the window, longing for a letter that never comes. Until one day, he received a cryptic message about a party at the seashore during the evening tide – but he does not know who the letter is for, let alone who sent it.


Erin Stead’s art here is remarkable, and so is Michelle Cuevas’ lyrical text that perfectly captured the subtleties and nuances of solitude and solitary existence – and what it means to find a mysterious message on the beach that is enough to lift one’s spirit, and may even serve to be life-changing, in the long run. A beautiful, quiet story that would not fail to tug at one’s heartstrings.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

3 comments on “A Meditation on Solitary Existence in “The Uncorker Of Ocean Bottles”

  1. I have to find that, Myra! It looks so touching. Thanks 🙂


  2. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Favourite Titles Across GatheringBooks’ 2017 Reading Themes – Gathering Books

  3. Pingback: Love Among Animal Friends in Three Picturebooks: “Squid and Octopus,” “I Love You Already!” and “The Lonely Mailman” – Gathering Books

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