Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Down to the sea in Ships

Down to the sea in Ships

Philemon Sturges
Illustrator:  Giles Laroche 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Penguin, 2005   ISBN: 978-0399234644

When you think about it a boat is a very simple thing. Is is something that will "bob and float" on water. Of course it also needs to be able to carry a passenger or two and if it is a birch bark canoe it also has to be able to carry supplies for an outing. If it is a Viking vessel it has to be able to carry a whole crew of armed men; men seeking new lands and plenty of plunder. In fact each ship or boat needs to be carefully chosen and suited to the purpose it is to be put to.

In this remarkable book we will meet fourteen very different kinds of boats and ships. The smallest is a little row boat which a pair of children can use for summer adventures on the water, and the largest is an ocean going liner. Each ship or boat represents the hopes and dreams of people. The passengers may be simply looking forward to a wonderful day sailing in a catboat. Or they might be dreaming of a new life in a new land as they see Lady Liberty from the deck of the Mauretania.

This is an exceptional portrait created by an well matched team. The text is fluid, often poignant, and full of brilliant flashes of imagery. The three-dimensional illustrations are simply astonishing. Full of depth and detail, they are an example of paper art at its best.