Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello (9781580897150, Amazon)
In this second Little Pig book, Little Pig isn’t big enough to join his older siblings at sailing camp. One of his brother’s gives him a rope to practice knot tying. That gets dull after a day. Happily, his grandparents come over and Poppy has been making a model ship. Little Pig helps him finish it and they sail it over and over again. Then on Saturday, the ship gets away from them and sails over a waterfall. Poppy and Little Pig try to catch it, but the current carries the ship away. Luckily, Little Pig has been practicing his knots and has the rope along in his pocket!
Costello demonstrates how little ones can be too small for some experiences but just the right size to save the day. Throughout the book there is a jolliness to the days spent with a grandfather who is happy to dabble in the water again and again. As the water runs faster after the rain, the adventure begins. Costello beautifully has Little Pig do the rescuing even as Poppy supports him in his endeavors. This is a story where the little one is the true hero.
The illustrations are immensely friendly. Costello combines sharp dark lines against flowing watercolors, making Little Pig and the other characters pop. Readers will notice that Little Pig has two grandfathers who visit, making this book a subtle LGBT-friendly read. As the days pass, Poppy’s shirts change color, marking the time in a floral way.
A second win for Little Pig! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.
The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry
When an earthquake hits Japan, Kai tries to help his elderly grandparents escape the tsunami waves, but he is unable to get them to move fast enough. After the immediate crisis, Kai is moved from his home in Japan to the safety of Oregon to live with his cousins. His parents stayed behind in Japan to work on the nuclear power plant that was damaged in the storm. Jet is the cousin that Kai moves in with. She dreams of being the pilot of a boat on the Columbia Bar. One day she misses checking the tide though and puts her little brother in serious danger on the water. These two cousins, each wrestling with the results of their actions and the tug of their dreams, have to find a way to forgive themselves and move forward.
Parry, author of Heart of a Shepherd, has once again captured the courage of children on the page. The two protagonists are unique voices in children’s literature. Kai from Japan looks at everything in America as different and foreign. He struggles with his own role in his grandparent’s death and feels a loss of honor for leaving Japan and escaping to safety himself rather than helping rebuild. Jet is a courageous girl who struggles to make and keep friends. She is passionate about sailing and boats but also about her family. Jet doesn’t warm to people easily, and the two cousins face interpersonal issues between them that are organic and realistic.
The setting too is beautifully rendered. The Oregon coast and the Columbia River Bar add real drama and danger to the story. The ever-present weather and tides, the concerns with sailing and family honor, and the dreams of Jet herself meld together into a mix of adventure and destiny. The book has facts at the end about the Columbia River Bar Pilots and about Captain Deborah Dempsey who appears as a character in the book, the only female Columbia River Bar pilot.
Realistic and dangerous adventure in a beautiful and unique part of the United States, this book speaks to working to forgive yourself and overcoming adversity by doing the right thing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
Voyage by Billy Collins, illustrated by Karen Romagna
The former US Poet Laureate wrote this poem in honor of John Cole who is the Director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The poem celebrates reading and books, and the voyage of discovery that writing and words can take us on. In the book, a young boy gets on a boat and travels across the open sea. When he can no longer see land, the boat turns into a book which he starts to read. When he finishes the book, he becomes the book. The moon looks down as the boy returns to shore with his boat and his book.
Collins offers children a book that truly introduces them to poetry. This is a book that asks children to stretch and understand that there is more to the story than is right on the page in the words. The poem is about reading, about journeys, about wonder and the way that books can inspire and change us. That is not there on the page, and yet it is there if you look for it. This is a great book to introduce children to deeper poetry and how it too is dazzling.
Romagna’s illustrations take a literal look at the poem, offering images of what the words are depicting and also hinting at the depths behind them as well. Filled with moments of whimsy with a friendly moon and a blowing cloud with a face, the illustrations are friendly and celebratory.
A poetic picture book that will make a great gift for book lovers, those who enjoy Billy Collins, and children who are ready for their own voyage into poetry. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
The co-creator of the Ladybug Girl series returns with a completely different type of book. It is the story of three little bears who accidentally break their mother’s favorite blue seashell, so they set off to find her a new one. Along the way they meet other bears on boats but only one can give them any advice about finding a blue seashell, they need to look for a hat-shaped island and then look in the right place. As they travel, the bears look and look for a blue seashell, but don’t find one. Once they give up hope, they start to argue and as they fight a storm blows up around them. They may be forced to return home to Mama empty handed, and after all, their mother is a bear!
Soman has created an exceptional picture book. It hearkens back to many classic picture books, particularly ones by Maurice Sendak like Where the Wild Things Are and the Little Bear series. It also has ties to the three bears, Beatrix Potter and even Melville. But best of all, it reads like it is a classic already, one that will be shared with children for years, and very rightly so. The story arc is brilliantly crafted, moving the story forward and also coming full circle, returning the bears in time for a warm supper with Mama. It is so strongly built that there is a sense of coming home when reading the story, but also one of surprise and delight at discovering it.
Soman’s art is extraordinary: from the faces of the little bears that show every emotion clearly despite the fur to the landscapes that are like opening a window to the ocean. There are page turns where you simply sit for a moment and linger, looking at the new vista before you until you are ready to read the words on the page.
A top Caldecott contender, this picture book feels like returning home to Mama after a long trip at sea. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.