When Molly wakes on a stormy morning to find the house empty, she realises that something is very wrong. She gets dressed, grabs her most precious possessions and rushes to the harbour wall, where she sees her mother with other women praying that the red fishing boat that went out with three fishermen will come back. On the shore, she gives to the sea her tiny cowrie shells, her photo of her father, and lastly and in desperation, her beloved doll, Megan, and begs the sea to bring back her Daddy. The sea takes each offering, and nothing seems to happen. Her eyes full of tears, Molly watches Megan until she is a speck on the horizon…. and then there is a shout from the harbour wall: “A boat!” The little red fishing boat with all three men on board comes home, and anyone who is moved by that moment at the end of The Railway Children when Bobbie cries out “Daddy! Oh my Daddy!” may find a similar lump in the throat here. The doll Megan had indeed gone to find Daddy, and Daddy has brought her home.
The illustrations by Andrew Whitson are excellent, and match the elemental nature of the story. The women praying on the harbour wall could be from any period in time, with their cloaks, or shawls, or coats blowing in the wind. Malachy Doyle comes from Northern Ireland, has lived in Wales and returned to Ireland, and in this story he brings out the necessity of our relationship with the sea in all its variation and danger, not only for those whose livelihood depends on it, but also for the families at home awaiting their return each day. This picturebook has been simultaneously published in Irish and in Welsh, and will certainly find readers to enjoy it, although, sadly, not all attempts at bargaining with the sea will be successful.