Children's books

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles


The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

by Michelle Cuevas     illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Dial Books for Young Readers  2016


The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles has a job of the utmost importance.  It is his task to open any bottle found at sea and make sure that the message is delivered.  He loves his job, although he always wishes that one of the letters would someday be addressed to him.

One day he finds a bottle with the most intriguing note inside, and no name attached.  As he devotes himself to solving the mystery, he ends up finding what his heart wanted all along.

Why I love this book

Make no mistake, this new hit is emotional and evocative; some might say “quiet,” and this is precisely what I love about it.  There are many excellent picture books on the market, and many of them have fun, loud, in-your-face characters. It was a nice change to pick up this book and read about this dedicated, tender-hearted character with a secret dream of belonging.


Michelle Cuevas is certainly a master of words.  With lovely sentences such as “Sometimes the messages were written by a quill dipped in sadness”  and “But most of the time they made people quite happy, for a letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl.” We can understand why the main character feels the burden of a job well done.

The publisher got it right when they paired the creators of this story.  What a beautiful duet! Erin E. Stead used a combination of woodblock prints, oil pastels, and pencil that add brilliantly to the reverent, tender feeling of the story.


I’ve read some reviews which say this book is sad. Well yes, in parts it is sad but I believe that in order to appreciate a boatload of friends, one must know what it feels like to be alone.

More praise for The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

“Cuevas’s prose is laden with gems . . . gorgeous sentences as precious as the messages themselves. Beauty shines through a fog of sadness . . . Colors—the tawny body of a cat, the red of the man’s Cousteau-esque knit cap—bloom with Stead’s whispery pencil drawings.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Readers will find both consolation and encouragement on every visit to this emotionally resonant, evocative story.”—Kirkus, starred review

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2 thoughts on “The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

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