Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Book Boat's In

The Book Boat's In

Cynthia Cotten
Illustrator:  Frane Lessac 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Holiday House, 2013   ISBN: 978-0823425211

One morning Jesse and his father hitch the horses to the wagon and they drive to town. When they arrive, Jesse is delighted to see that the book boat is tied up along the canal wharf. Jesse’s father lets Jesse go and visit the boat, and soon Jesse is on board perusing the many shelves of books that line the walls of the boat’s cabin. Jesse finds a used copy of The Swiss Family Robinson, one of his favorite books. Mr. Edwards, the man who runs the book boat, tells Jesse that the book costs twenty-five cents.

   Jesse would love to own his own copy of The Swiss Family Robinson, but his father cannot spare twenty-five cents at the moment. He suggests that Jesse earn some money so that he can buy the book when the boat comes back to town in a weeks’ time. Back at home, Jesse looks at the contents of his treasure box and finds out that he has thirteen cents to his name. Somehow he needs to find a way to make seven more cents.

   After school Jesse goes to the general store to ask if there is any work to do and Mrs. Blake lets him sweep the store. Jesse earns one and half pennies for his work. For the rest of the week he works hard, and by the time Saturday comes around he has seventeen and a half cents. Maybe Mr. Edwards will let Jesse buy the book even if he doesn’t have twenty-five cents.

   This book not only tells the story of one boy’s quest to buy his very first book, but it also tells the story of the boat libraries that brought books to the people who lived on the banks of the Eerie Canal in the early and mid 1800’s. People could rent or buy the books on the boats and often these books were the only ones they had access to.

   There are wonderful folkloric illustrations throughout the book, which compliment a story that celebrates one boy’s willingness to work to get what he wants.