Finn and Cara, brother and sister, live on a hard-scrabble farm near a bleak Irish coast with their loving parents. Their father builds small boats called curragh, and gives the children one, with instructions to stay clear Fog Island. But they become lost in a sudden fog and the currents carry them to that forbidding shore.
Tomi Ungerer, whom Maurice Sendak called an inspiration, is here less humorous and iconoclastic than in earlier books, focusing more on mood and suspense while staying faithful to Irish culture. The oversize paintings are dark and brooding with hints that range from Jules Verne to Hokusai. The story is perfect for telling to kids who are beginning to think they are too old for storytime, maybe with a haunting Celtic musical accompaniment. And Ungerer's pictures will always repay close examination.
David Wiesner is another picture book author who reminds me of Jules Verne, particularly in Flotsam. In The Wreck of the Zephyr Chris Van Allsburg also tells a story of a small boat swept away to a strange place.
If you are interested in how an artist creates a picture book like Fog Island, you can watch this interview with Ungerer. He has also written the autobiographical Tomi: a Childhood under the Nazis.