Kirkus calls her newest, Arthur’s Dream Boat, released by Candlewick in February, a “real attention-getter.” In this book, Dunbar asks child readers to consider what is real and what is but a dream.
Arthur awakes one morning to recall an amazing dream. He’s got a sailboat on the mind — in more ways than one. He’s dreamt of one, not to mention there is a tiny sailboat perched on his head. (“A few years ago,” Dunbar notes in the book’s back-flap bio, “I was sitting on Brighton beach, looking out to sea. There was a small boy in the water and a boat far away on the horizon. For one magic moment, the boat looked as though it was perched on the boy’s head. I remember thinking, I’m the only one who can see that boat on his head; it must be a dream boat. And I drew a quick sketch.”)
He sets out to tell family members about his “amazing” dream, but no one is quite listening. Observant readers will notice that the boat is increasingly embellished with features he sees on or near his own family members—the rainbow-colored fish food his mother is tossing into the aquarium becomes the “polka-dotted sails,” and the baby food his sister is flinging around the kitchen becomes the “golden flag”—as well as other nautical clues, including a message in a bottle on the family’s kitchen table.
Finally, in a large, dramatic font we see the young boy yell, “DREAM BOAT!” (at the height of his irritation at having been ignored) with quite the fanciful (and fully-fledged) boat of the imagination perched atop his noggin.
Finally, the family sees it, followed by …
Here the book shifts, as his family is out in the waters where his boat sails, calling “Ahoy!” Don’t fret; everyone’s happy. “ALL ABOARD!” Arthur calls, as you can see in this post’s opening spread. Whew. Now the whole family’s on the boat, actually paying attention to each other and enjoying one another’s company.
On the final endpages, we see Arthur perched in the water, asleep. Is it all in his head? Which part was a dream? Which part wasn’t? Was the entire thing a dream?
The answers don’t really matter. It’s the journey itself that does.
As Kirkus noted, Polly Dunbar knows how to get your attention (just as the boy does) with these mixed media illustrations. The transition to the ocean setting near the book’s close is especially pleasing, as she slows things down and lets the book breathe with a couple of “shh” spreads, as the boy ponders entering the waters. And, as noted, she has rewards for discerning eyes all throughout the tale.
It’s an entertaining flight of the imagination, as well as a great read-aloud. As Publisher’s Weekly writes, there’s a “sizable bookshelf of titles that bear witness to the power of a child’s imagination,” but this one does it up well.
ARTHUR’S DREAM BOAT. Copyright © 2012 by Polly Dunbar. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
First of all, Happy Earth Day, dear imps.
Here’s something so kicky that I’m just gonna start off with it. This article on reading and standardized testing in the schools by Claire Needell Hollander in the New York Times is a must-read. You’d think people wouldn’t have to point this kind of stuff out anymore, but we’ve somehow lost our way and it’s gotta be said. If you’re busy, here’s the best part:
“We cannot enrich the minds of our students by testing them on texts that purposely ignore their hearts. By doing so, we are withholding from our neediest students any reason to read at all. We are teaching them that words do not dazzle but confound. We may succeed in raising test scores by relying on these methods, but we will fail to teach them that reading can be transformative and that it belongs to them.”
That part about IT BELONGS TO THEM? Gave me goosebumps. It’s true. (The gratuitous capsy-ness there is all mine, of course. Hollander knows better than to yell.)
On that note, this from Roger Sutton at the Horn Book is also great.
Okay, my kicks:
1) I read some really great picture books this week. Most of them were F&Gs, and I can’t wait to post about them later.
2) I love writing about picture books. Have I mentioned that lately?
3) I also introduced my girls to some must-have Motown tunes, as well as played “Twist and Shout” for them for the first time in their lives. That was fun, though I think I had more fun dancing than they did.
4) That song always makes me think of this and how I used to wish back in 1986 (at age 14, quite possibly the height of my dorky-ness) that I were Ferris Bueller:
5) Gratuitous cake. That is, baking a cake for no special occasion.
6) Buttercream frosting.
7) The Lumineers:
What are YOUR kicks this week?