Off & Away

by Cale Atkinson (Author) Cale Atkinson (Illustrator)

Off & Away
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

How would you get mail if you lived in the middle of the sea? It's Jo's dad's job to deliver it, taking bottles wherever they need to go. He always comes home with exciting stories to tell--but Jo is far too afraid to go out on the ocean herself. Until Dad gets a bad sea cold, that is. With no one but Jo to deliver the bottles, she must find her courage and set sail alone. As she embarks on her mission, her fears just might be replaced with new friendships . . . and grand stories of her own.

With beautiful, atmospheric art and endearing new characters by author-illustrator Cale Atkinson, this picturebook is a treasure.

Publishers Weekly

Jo's brawny, tattooed father operates the clearinghouse for all the bottles that have messages in them. The bottles float to Jo's ship-shaped shanty, and her dad sails around the world making sure "every bottle got to the right home." When Dad gets a bad cold, Jo has to overcome her deepest fear--she's convinced the ocean is filled with monsters--and take on the delivery duties. Along the way, she discovers that the ocean is actually full of inhabitants (human and otherwise) who just want connection with the outside world; even the seemingly scariest monster in the remotest corner of the ocean is a real sweetheart who's grateful for company. Gap-toothed Jo's determination and doughtiness are certainly appealing, but it's Atkinson's (Where Oliver Fits) settings and secondary characters that are the real standouts. The expansive skies shimmer in unearthly tones of red and green, and elaborately rendered creatures sprawl from margin to margin, demonstrating imaginative worldbuilding in full sail. Ages 4-7. Agent: Nicole Tugeau, Tugeau 2. (June)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2--This affecting tale begins, "Out at sea, there is a place where all the messages in bottles gather." It's Jo's dad's job to gather them and get the messages to their recipients. He always has marvelous adventures and Jo would love to join in, but she's too scared. Her visions of the terrifying creatures that lie in wait below the surface are so over-the-top that she's afraid she'll never return. Jo is forced to face her fears, however, when her dad is too sick to make his deliveries and the bottles are piling up. Of course, every fear the little heroine has turns out to be unfounded, and she even gets to help the creatures she thought so forbidding. Children whose fears are starting to get the better of them can benefit from Jo's journey; but the tale, which is gorgeously illustrated in bright hues that bring the ocean and its not-so-scary creatures to life, will also appeal to young readers. VERDICT An engaging read-aloud and a worthy addition to storytime collections.--Henrietta Verma, Credo Reference, Jackson Heights, NY

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Praise for Off & Away:

Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Reading List

Ontario Library Association's Best Bets Top Ten List

WSRA Recommendation List

Cale Atkinson
CALE ATKINSON is an author-illustrator and animator whose titles include Unicorns 101, Where Oliver Fits, If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki Vansickle, and The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus. He lives lakeside with his family in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. See more of his work at, and follow @2dCale on Twitter.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
June 20, 2018

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