7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #277: Featuring Polly Dunbar

h1 April 22nd, 2012 by jules

I always look forward to new picture books from Polly Dunbar (who visited 7-Imp back in ’08).

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.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

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?

24 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #277: Featuring Polly Dunbar”

  1. Love that twist and shout video! Hurray for music, unnecessary cake and of course books! This imp is bursting at the seams wtih her kick:

    My colleague and I went to Aljoscha Blau’s exhibition opening here in Berlin at this amazing childrens book temple called LesArt. Groupies that we are we got him to sign posters and books for ourselves and for the kids at our kindergarten. We got to learn more abot Aljoscha Blau, too see his work, look at his books, listen to him speak. There was even music and food and wine Here is his incredible website. .http://www.aljoschablau.com/

  2. Books and music and cake make life so much more livable. I am glad for your kicks, Jules.

    I saw a few weeks ago that Polly Dunbar had a new book coming out and meant to email to ask if you’d seen it, but I forgot and now I know you have anyway. I’m always so excited when she has a new book out.

    Lisa, That exhibition opening sounds fun. I love going to events that celebrate books: I get such a lot of energy out of them.

    My kicks:
    1. Music from Jules.
    2. The Brain Trust helping me feel more sane.
    3. I did part 2 of my homeschooling webinar this week, and I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of presenting in that format. In many ways, I prefer a live audience, but the webinar really lets you expand your reach and do some fun interactive things. It was a really positive experience.
    4. I’ve been working on getting more things out of my house to get ready to move, and I’m making progress. I will move. I will. I will.
    5. Last night, I went with friends to see Jeff, Who Lives at Home, which wasn’t earth-shattering but was solidly engaging and funny.
    6. On Friday night, I went to see the band fun. It was such a fun concert. It felt good to take a little vacation from various types of work and laugh and dance.
    7. My marketing/PR efforts for the library’s 10th anniversary celebration in a few weeks are showing signs of working. That thing is starting to come together, I think. I hope.

  3. Polka-dot sails, how cool is that. It looks like a fun story.
    Jules, what kind of cake? Love the quote about testing as we head toward doing so at school.
    My kicks:
    1. Yesterday’s writing retreat, five minutes from my house. Ten dollars for a room to write for 24 hours. Pics at Deowriter.
    2. Curry chicken for lunch. Our writing group always eats well.
    3. First day above 70 degrees with plenty of sun.
    4. Fibonacci poems from kindergartners.
    5. Helen Frost’s Go Gently Out. Poem and photos are incredible.
    6. Presenting chapter books for partner reading to fifth graders. These are my books from a grant I wrote.
    7. Earth day memories of the first Earth Day.
    Have a great week.

  4. Hi Adrienne. I missed you in cyberspace. The 10 th anniversary plans sounds fun.

  5. Arthur’s Dream Boat is so lovely. It’s original and has that “inevitability” thing that Ursula Nordstrom talks about. I’ve been stuck in the book “Dear Genius” lately – reading Ursula’s letters is a great way to get out of a rut, I’ve found.

  6. Lisa, that sounds incredible. I’m with Adrienne on how rejuvenating that can be. I wish I lived near a picture book museum of any sort. Shoot, I’d like to found one of my own. But that’ll have to be *after* breakfast … thanks for the URL. I’ll go explore in a sec.

    Adrienne, hear hear on kick #2. Good to hear your zippy-quick review of Jeff, Who Lives at Home. I might wait for the DVD-watch. And which band did you see? … Yes, you will move. You will. It will happen.

    Jone: Chocolate with buttercream AND chocolate buttercream frosting. (It was the 8-year-old’s idea to just mix them together.) Jone, you are still rockin’ poetry month. Glad the retreat went well and hope the sun stays out for you.

    Airlie, indeed. Polly’s book is specialness.

  7. The Arthur’s Dream Boat book looks fantastic — hauntingly what’s-really-going-on-here? in nature. (Kids can get very freaked out by dreams; this seems a kindly way to introduce them to the paradox that while dreams aren’t “real,” they’re not exactly “false,” either.)

    Of course, it also put me in mind of that ship in Time Bandits that turns out to be on a giant’s head as he wades ashore. (Couldn’t find ANY videos from that film at YouTube, except the trailer. While looking around for a decent still photo, probably the best one I found was at the bottom of a blog post about — as it happens — ships as hats. Who knew?!?)

    Insanely great musical selections today, Jules. (After the Ferris one, I just had to see the entire film, again, ASAP. Turns out that it’s on one of the HBO channels tomorrow morning — just set it up to record, heh.)

    And so glad you saw the Horn Book article!

    lisa: I should probably be embarrassed that I’d never heard of Aljoscha Blau before. What incredible work, though! (If by some miracle Jules doesn’t know of him, I suspect she’ll go crazy over his stuff, too.)

    Very impressed at your doing the webinar thing, adrienne. I’ve been attending some of them recently at the day job and they seem to be complicated as heck to bring off!

    Jone, that writing-retreat arrangement sounds heavenly. If I lived just a few miles from such a place I’d have it reserved on a weekly basis. 🙂


    1. 4-day visit from Mom and Sis last weekend, as expected, just blew past. Sigh.
    2. The BBC Sherlock series is pretty great. (Well, based on two episodes, anyway.)
    3. I blogged about it, but this performance of Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind” — by Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, and Warren Haynes, in performance at the White House — just killed me.
    4. Got a couple of great no-particular-reason gifts from my “kid” brother this week, including several gigabytes of music and a photo of ANOTHER gift that he’ll have to hand to me at some point — a shadowbox of memories. Holy moly.
    5. Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” turned 171 years old a couple days ago.
    6. I was reminded this week of a poem which a beloved uncle (who’s not that much older than me) once taught me, when both of us were kids:

    Thirty days hath Septober,
    April, June, and no wonder
    All the rest have peanut butter
    Except my grandmother
    She’s got an old red tricycle.

    That I was exposed to and still remember such stuff should probably be cause for alarm.
    7. My blog turned 4 this week. Thanks so much to 7 Imp, especially the weekly Kickers, especially the Head Kicker (a virtual Rockette of Kickers) for making so much of those 4 years such a pleasure for me.

    Have a great week!

  8. Jules, It was the band called “fun.” It’s hard to write it coherently, because they insist on the lower-case and the period at the end. I love their music, though.

  9. Good morning, Imps!

    The images of Arthur’s Dream Boat reminded me of Teen Boat! by Dave Roman and illustrated by John Green, a graphic novel that comes out in May. It was a webcomic, and now it’s being published as one full volume, one complete story. Y’all should check it out. Amazon posted a fun interview with the creators: http://www.amazon.com/Teen-Boat-Dave-Roman/dp/product-description/0547636695

    Jules: Twist & Shout is fun. It also is forever connected to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for me. It’s one of the songs we performed for the John Hughes concert. Singing backup for Barrett Foa was so much fun.

    lisainberlin: Glad that you enjoyed the exhibition!

    Adrienne: Yay for progress and positivity! I have a friend who loves the band fun.

    Jone: Any day with fibonacci is a good day.

    Hi, Airlie!

    JES: Thanks for sharing that poem. I hadn’t heard that one before. 🙂 Happy blogiversary to you!

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Booking a short film – rehearsals and preparation this past week, filming next weekend!
    2) Attending a reading of a new play
    3) Participating in a reading of another new play
    4) Attending a screening of a comedy I was in and hearing the audience laughing happily throughout
    5) Seeing A Trip to the Moon on the big screen for the first time
    6) Going to a festival of plays today – so excited for all of the playwrights, actors, directors, and crew members involved that I know, can’t wait to see what they’ve created
    7) Booking two more readings: One of the theatre groups I’m involved in will be having its first ever night of TV show readings, and they’re kicking things off with Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica. I’ll be playing Arya Stark in GoT and Boomer in BSG.

  10. The horizon-boat story that Polly Dunbar tells about the inspiration for “All Aboard” is great. The scene with Arthur, boat-on-head, approaching the SSSHHH wave speaks to me. And the book’s colors are so… soft and dreamy.

    jules – I love that Lumineers music video! The music and the filmic approach. Whoever thought of having the gaffer ride the dimmer switch in time with the beat was GENIUS.

    Thanks for the quote and articles on reading; (that is the reward and the danger of visiting 7 Imp—I always glean great things about kidlit while staying too-long at my computer hooked by all the juicy links. Ha!)

    lisainberlin – your outing to exhibition at a children’s “book temple” sounds grand.

    adrienne – good luck with your marketing/PR for library!

    Jone – I’m intrigued by the one-day-writing-retreat, close to home. Is that your photo of peonies at the top of the Deo Writer blog? Gorgeous.

    Airlie – think its near time I reread “Dear Genius”.

    JES – Yes! That Time Bandits image came to mind my as well. Gotta say: Man, you were born to blog; such a keen and amusing voice. Congrats on 4 and to many more.

    LW – “TV show readings”? Do you mean your theater group will read TV scripts as performance material? Sounds fun. But am I guessing right?

    Well, for some reason it’s been kind of a sad week for me. Tiny things just piled up; a joke at a cocktail party at my expense, some road-rage lady screaming obscenities when my car stalled, a hoped-for invitation that didn’t come through. Ah well, such is life some weeks. So, it’s a joy to read all the heart-lifting kicks here and remember I’ve had a few myself as well.

    1. Finished an article (by its due date) which made me think and that I’m proud of.
    2. I’m no music aficionado like jules and others here… But my son played this song for me from his i-pod collection; he explained that it was a love song written about the classic video game Mario Kart. And I think it’s clever and a lovely, sweet song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDBpQVhCMb8
    3. Enjoying my K-cup Chai Latte with foamed milk.
    4. Research for my novel: relevant find at rock-bottom price (a 1925 volume for $7!)
    5. Discovered a hummingbird nest in a branch over our trash cans; watching parents preparing; anticipating watching eggs then tiny hummingbird nestlings to come.

    That’s it from the West Coast. Thanks to all for the lift and have a happy week!

  11. Whoops! First line: make that “inspiration for ‘Arthur’s Dream Boat”.

  12. Hooray for Polly Dunbar! I love her Tilly & Friends books.

  13. Drnise,
    They are tulips.

  14. Jrne,
    They’re mighty lovely tulips.

  15. Hi Everyone, time for my Sunday night (late for all you East=Coasters) Kicks read. I enjoyed it so much as usual. And like Denise I spent lots of time reading all the articles and listening to all the music.

    Thanks Jules and everyone for the goodies!

    I LOVE the Lumineers! And each time I come back to this page, the song replays – sort of magical.

    Love the book too – and I agree with whoever it was that commented on the polka-dot sails – great.

    My kicks (in case anyone is still reading):
    1. finished 3rd day of training with my hubby to become a foster parent. We are almost ready to be certified – just a few more hurdles. And our son survived 8 hours without us both for the 3rd time in 5 weeks even though he wasn’t happy about it.
    2. went to bed at 9 last night, asleep at 9:15.
    3. YA novel I’m editing has a full first draft and I read it through this week – it is good. I get goosebumps when I read parts of it. I’m so excited for this author.
    4. Finally got back to my blog today, which I’ve neglected for a month.
    5. my cousin sent me a detailed account of how her 3 year old is reading her 1 year old sister all the board books I sent each of them at birth – so, so sweet!

    Thanks for the rich reading and for sharing your week with me, Imps! Have a good one and hope to read about you all next week, same place.

  16. Such great fun and witty illustrations – I’m with Denise and John in that it brought to mind Time Bandits, but it also reminded me of Baron Munchhausen too.

    Jules – Ferris Bueller! Hooray! And I wish I lived closer so I could try to nab a piece of that gratuitous chocolate buttercream cake. Love that excerpt too.

    lisainberlin – the exhibitions sounds like fun, can’t wait to check out the link later.

    Adrienne – glad you had fun at the fun concert. Good luck on your move.

    Jone – that writing retreat close to home sounds great, and hasn’t this weather been amazing?

    Hi Airlie!

    John – happy blog birthday! Thanks for that link, that song slays me.

    LW – busy week for you! Congrats on the short film and the readings. Hope the play festival was fun.

    Denise – sorry it was a sad week, I hope you have some unexpected acts of kindness delivered your way this coming week. Jealous of your hummingbird nest, I just hung a feeder in my yard, but haven’t seen any yet.

    Allison -congrats on the foster parent training. And how awesome the book you are editing gives you goosebumps!

    My kicks this week:
    1) Saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (the American version). That last image of her in the film – haunting.
    2) Having a trial resolve in a very good way. Which made me feel very much like a “gladiator in a suit.” (that phrase stolen from Scandal, which I am newly addicted to.)
    3) Then getting taken out for appetizers by a great girlfriend – great food and great company= great afternoon.
    4) The latest clip/trailer for The Avengers. RDJ just makes me smile.
    5) Midnight soccer game last night and I scored my first goal ever in co-ed. We lost, but it was still superfun, and so was going out for beers afterwards.
    6) Glorious sunshine the past 2 days, spent time mowing the grass and working in the yard, with Cole “helping” as much as possible. Then snuggles with Skittle later. (Jules – Skittle is doing great, she and Cole are napping together at my feet right now.)
    7) One week staycation starting now. More yardwork, plus reading and catching up on movies are in the works.
    8) Got my poetry postcard on Friday! Made me smile and I love it!

    Hope everyone has a wonderful happy week!

  17. Have loved Polly’s work ever since she did my book “Here’s A Little Poem.” She never disappoints!

    My kicks:

    1. Wrote a picture book this week, and after about six revisions, it’s ready to be read in my writers’ group (which will mean about six revisions more, I’m sure!)

    2. Sold a story and a poem to Tor.com (my first to them, though last week I had an essay there.)

    3. Spoke at SCBWI New England where I was (LOL) called the Andrew Carnegie of Children’s Books.

    4. Got a nice HOW DO DINOS royalty check which allowed me to pay the IRS and other bills.

    5. Had a granddaughter not only get accepted by the Smith College Master’s Degree in Social Work but get the job she was hoping to get.

    6. Am learning to Balkan folk dance. (very intriguing and difficult rhythms.)

    7. Am speaking on a powerhouse poetry morning at IRA in Chicago next week with J. Patrick Lewis, Marilyn Singer, and Sylvia Vardell.


  18. I’m here, I promise! I just got behind yesterday. More soon, and thanks to everyone who came a-kickin’.

  19. I am quickly becoming the Monday morning quarterback of the Imps.
    Jules-I love that you love writing about picture books.
    Lisa-I’m putting Berlin on my dream travel list.
    Adrienne-Brain Trust? I’ve got to get me one of those.
    Jone-Yay for Earth Day
    Lil Wil- Nothing better then people laughing when the are suppose to.
    Denise-People who don’t believe in fairies have never seen a humming bird.
    Allison-Blog On!
    Rachel-TGWTDT movie was haunting. I was inspired by the villain, when he asked why people don’t trust their instincts.
    Jane-You were great and it was so nice to meet your lovely daughter.

    OK, kicks

    1. Since my kids were home this week for school vacation I had them join me for Illustration Friday with great results. http://atlanticmo.blogspot.com/2012/04/drawn-together.html

    2. I made a last minute decision to attend the New England SCBWI conference.

    3. I saw some eagles flying over the Mass. Pike on my way to Springfield.

    4. I went to the Eric Carle Museum and hardly got lost.

    5. My roommate turned out to be super cool and nice and not an ax(e) murderer.

    6. My book dummy session with Mary Brigid Barrett at the conference turned into a portfolio review. She went above and beyond with her time and she told the truth.

    7. Levon Helm. I am grateful for his music in my life and for influencing so many of my favorite musicians.
    This song gives me hope that he is at peace. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEf-YAaBalE&feature=related

    Have a great week everyone!

  20. John: HAPPY BLOG BIRTHDAY! Ditto what Denise said about your voice in writing. Definitely. Your blog makes this world a better place … Still haven’t explored the Aljoscha Blau site, but I shall! And a shadowbox of memories? DUDE. Can’t wait to hear about that.

    Adrienne, I went and looked ’em up. Good stuff.

    Little Willow: Wish I could have seen you all performing “Twist & Shout.” And wait … You as Arya Stark is PERFECT. We finished Season One last night, and NOOOOOO!!! to what happened with her father. She is my favorite character. You all even look alike. ROCK. … What a rich week you had, LW. Break a leg with … well, ALL of it!

    Denise, for a minute, I thought you had typed that it was time you *read* Dear Genius, and I almost dropped everything to email to tell you how much you’d love it. But I see you meant re-read, which is what I keep meaning to do, too. … I’m so sorry your week was just so-so. May I beat up whoever made a joke at your expense? (Er, sorry. That sounded violent, but you get my point.) … Listening to the song now, and I love that he has a vacuum cleaner behind him. … Good luck to the hummingbirds. Yesterday on a walk in the park, I saw a baby bird on the sidewalk. He must have fallen. This has happened in this same park before. I can’t just walk past it. So sad. …. Sorry. Not very kicky at all I suppose, though it does make me stop and look and listen. …. Also, the road rage lady needs to get a grip, yes? Blerg.

    Hi, Matt. Isn’t Polly just consistently good?

    Allison, that manuscript sounds like good stuff, and what an honor to be editing it, huh? Sounds like it anyway. Congrats on the foster parent training! Wow just wow.

    Rachel, I’d happily share my cake with you. …. As for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, how about that Trent-Reznor opening? I’ve heard the gripes that it has nothing to do with the rest of the film, but the music and the … well, all of it made me turn to my husband and say, that was worth the price of admission alone. … Congrats on the trial and the soccer goal! (What is Scandal, by the way? Haven’t heard of it. TV show?) Enjoy your staycation!

    Jane, congrats to your granddaughter! And you for the SCBWI honor. Have fun at IRA, and hello to your fellow poets!

    Moira: I still gotta see that Eric Carle museum. One day, one day. … And, ooo! Ooo! your book dummy session sounds good and awfully rewarding. Honesty is good.

    I’m gonna go now and read everyone’s links.

    Have a great week, Imps!

  21. Hi Back to everyone,
    and thanks Moira and Jules for the shout-out – I really appreciate when you respond personally (!!).

    I am from New England (now living in LA), so was thrilled read about Moira going to the NE SCBWI – and I can just picture where you saw the eagles on the Mass Pike. I think a couple of author and illustrator friends were going this year.

    The Eric Carle museum is beautifully designed and interesting – small but interesting. My son still paints watercolor reciting the little mantra they taught him in the art studio “swish, swish” (brush is swished in water glass), “dab dab” (brush is dabbed in paint)…

  22. Love Polly’s art! She is one of my favorite picture illustrators.


    My granddaughter Julia is eight-months-old and is beginning to understand books. She doesn’t just chew her board books now.

  23. DYING to go to the Carle museum, Allison. One day …

    Hi, Elaine! That is a HUGE milestone. Woo!

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