7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #437: Featuring Jessixa Bagley

h1 June 21st, 2015 by jules

“That evening, Buckley and Mama went for a walk.
Buckley brought along the little boat he had made especially for Papa
with a note attached that said, ‘For Papa. Love, Buckley.'”


I read a brand-new picture book this week, which I found really moving. It’s from debut author-illustrator Jessixa Bagley (pictured below), originally from Portland, Oregon, and now living in Seattle. “[M]y love of picture books,” Jessixa writes at her site, “has been the constant goal my entire life and has always been a working focus.”

Boats for Papa (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, June 2015), which will be on shelves at the end of this month, is about Buckley, an anthropomorphized beaver who lives with his mother in a tiny house by the sea. “They didn’t have much, but they always had each other.” Buckley’s father is gone. One doesn’t really know why—I suppose it’s possible he took off for one reason or another—but it’s also perfectly plausible that he has died. Readers who look closely will see loving family photos, which include Buckley’s father, on the walls of the house.

[Note: Plot spoilers below!]

Buckley loves to make things, especially boats from the driftwood he finds on the shore. He makes boat after boat, his mother always encouraging his creative efforts. “Your papa would be proud!” his Mama tells him. Buckley, who misses his father, wants to show him his favorite boats, but he settles for carrying them to the sea, with notes attached that say “For Papa. Love, Buckley,” and he pushes the boats out on the tides — all in the hopes that the hand-made vessels will reach his father.


Opening endpapers
(Click to enlarge)


“Buckley and his mama lived in a small wooden house by the sea.
They didn’t have much, but they always had each other.”

(Click to enlarge)


“And he loved to make things with his hands.”


“‘Mama, look what I made for Papa!’ said Buckley.
‘What a wonderful boat! Your papa would be proud!’ said Mama.
‘I wish I could show it to him,’ said Buckley. He missed his papa.”

(Click to enlarge)


“After Buckley had drifted off to sleep, Mama went out onto the beach
and thought about Papa. She missed him too.”

(Click to enlarge)


“… boats with real sails, ropes, and even tiny anchors.”


“And each time he made a new boat, it was even better than the last.”
(Click to enlarge)


One day—it’s Buckley’s birthday, and he and his mother picnic on the shore—Buckley runs back to the house to grab paper for the note for Papa he wants to attach to his latest boat. When he looks into Mama’s desk for paper, he finds a pile of the boats he’d made for Papa — the ones he had pushed out to sea:

Buckley closed the lid and sat quietly. The boats must have washed back onto the beach, after all. They had never reached Papa.

Buckley runs back, after jotting something on his boat-note, and he and Mama watch the boat drift out to sea.

Later, readers see Mama walk to the beach, grab the boat that has sailed back, brush the sand off of it, and wrap it in her shawl. As she does so, she sees the note that reads: “For Mama. Love, Buckley.”


“Soon it was Buckley’s next birthday. They built a fort, played pirates, and looked for buried treasure on the beach. Mama even made Buckley a very special cake
in the shape of a boat!”

(Click to enlarge)


“At sunset, they went for their walk to send a boat to Papa. Suddenly Buckley realized he’d forgotten to write a message. ‘I’ll be right back. I need to go write my note, so Papa knows the boat is for him,’ he said anxiously.”
(Click to enlarge)


I don’t like to make a habit of giving you the entire plot of picture books, because I don’t like to ruin surprises for you or go on and on about how good stories are laid out. But I pretty much have to share that with you so that you can understand when I say that the ending moved me to tears. This is such a tender tale of loss and love. It’s striking in its subtlety and restraint; in the hands of a lesser author, such a story could be a treacle-fest. Once you turn the last page, you think back to the part I quoted above: “They didn’t have much, but they always had each other.” It’s clear that both mother and son ache over their loss, yet they are helping each other through the pain as best they can — and Buckley’s mother always there, always sure and kind. In fact, after he realizes his mother was trying to spare him more sorrow by keeping the returned boats from him, he merely says to her, “Thank you, Mama. I had a really great birthday. And thank you for making every day so wonderful too.” In this way, it’s almost as if he lets go of some of the loss, having realized the steadfast affection always directed his way from the parent he has left.


Closing endpapers
(Click to enlarge)


It’s an eloquent and poignant story, one you won’t soon forget.

As for the book’s earthy watercolors, well … you can see that for yourself here today, since Jessixa (her site, by the way, says that the “x” is pronounced like a “c”) shares some paintings from the book, as well as some early sketches. She’s including the original thumbnails for the story before it changed. It was once called Drift. “Neal [Porter],” she tells me, “came up with the title Boats for Papa, because he said Drift was too melancholy, like Mama and Buckley were drifting aimlessly. I joked with Neal, telling him one day I would write a YA novel just so that I could call it Drift, because I still liked that title a lot.”

Jessixa also includes here today the original test pieces of art that she made when she got the idea for the book, “as well as a photograph of all the paint tests that I created during the painting process. These are some of my most favorite things in the world — all the little scraps of paper I tested colors on and figured out what color the sand, water, and sky would be at different times of the day.”


(Click each to enlarge)


Early samples


Jessixa: “Here are some pictures of actual wooden boats
and a nautical flag map alphabet that I made.”

(Click each to enlarge)


“I’ve been doing one boat drawing a day, leading up to the book launch,” Jessixa adds, “posting them to Instagram, Twitter, and my blog. It’s under #30boatsin30days and #boatsforpapa. I usually add a boat fact with the image, too. My Instagram and Twitter handles are Jessixa Bagley, and my blog is jessixabagley.blogspot.com.”

Boatloads of thanks to Jessixa for sharing today.

BOATS FOR PAPA. Copyright © 2015 by Jessixa Bagley. Published by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, New York. All images here today reproduced by permission of Jessixa Bagley.

* * *

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 * * *

Well, the news in Charleston this week was incredibly disturbing and sad, so we have to make the most of it, yes? Help me out with your own kicks, dear readers.

1) It’s Father’s Day, and my daughters are very lucky to have the father they do.

2) Story time at Parnassus Books with attentive children and my friend’s daughter (one of my favorite children on the planet) right by my side.

3) She’s baaaaaack!

I actually read an early copy of the book, but I’m happy to have the hardback. My girls and I laughed so hard when we read this that tears streamed down our faces.

4) One of my dearest friends, Susannah Fotopulos, was featured on Nashville Public Television recently. She is doing great things in local schools with her organization, Plant the Seed, creating outdoor classrooms in school gardens to educate and empower under-resourced children.

5) Evidently, my blog is listed as a good picture book website in the back of this new book from Martin Salisbury (a book I really want to read):

6) Getting a much-needed kick in the pants on a project.

7) I particularly enjoyed featuring Caroline Magerl’s work this week, and I am happy to share Jessixa’s today, too.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

12 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #437: Featuring Jessixa Bagley”

  1. Oh! How cute are these little beaver friends! They remind me of Mouse and Mole who are a few of my favorite characters!

    And I just ordered 100 Great Picture Books- I can’t wait to see it!

    Ok… Kicks.

    1. I have time to write Kicks!
    2. Our girls got out of school on Thursday. I am so darn excited for summer vacation and a break in our routine.
    3. I am seeing Judy Blume tomorrow night!!!!!!
    4. We leave for our favorite summer place shortly and we can’t wait.
    5. Strawberries are finally in season.
    6. Circus Mirandus. Jules- have you read it yet? I think you and the girls would love it!
    7. Coffee!

    I hope you are all well. It feels like forever since I checked in. I’ll look forward to coming back later today to read everyone’s kicks!

  2. What a lovely book – thank you Julie for all the photos of work in progress and pages – and I loved seeing the real boats!

  3. I’m so glad to see Jessixa featured here today. Here pictures are so lovely and now I’m seeing that her stories are lovely too. I’m tearing up just reading this post.

    Jules – I’ve got South Carolina on my mind too. Reading about Cynthia Hurd was a reminder that there is more good in the world than evil.
    Stacey – Hi there. Glad you are headed for summer fun. Give Judy a hug for me.
    Katy – I agree. Thanks for sharing, Jessixa


    1. I moved the post about breakfast with my dad to my website.http://moiraswiatkowski.com/2015/06/21/breakfast-special/
    2. Little League season ended with a great effort. I’ll miss watching the games.
    3. Ballet recital was yesterday. I am so proud of how far my daughter has progressed after only a year and a half of lessons.
    4. I wrote an article on Medium about my daily sketches. https://medium.com/@atlanticmoira/coffee-and-watercolors-1634396551d3
    5. So lucky to have my dad nearby
    6. My husband is a great dad.
    7. Dads who teach peace

    Have a great week all

  4. A fantastic book…I love that Haystack Rock is featured in this tale. Will need to look for it.
    Jules, I have no words for what happened in Charleston. Reading kicks helps to lift our spirits.
    Stacy, enjoy Judy Blume. Lucky you.
    Hi, Katy.
    Moira, enjoy your dad. I miss mine.
    My kicks:
    1. Sophie turned 19 on Monday. She was on Pet Walk forecast on the local news. Well, it was her picture.
    2. School’s out.
    3. Wearing the happy face mask as the children got on the busses.
    4. Choosing to shop yesterday with a friend rather than work cleaning up in the library.
    5. Wine tasting. The son in law of a college friend is the wine maker.
    6. Listening to great local blues, Sister Mercy. My high school friend’s husband play bass.
    7. Dancing.
    Have great week.

  5. What a beautiful story! Reading about it and looking at the lovely illustrations totally had me tearing up. Thanks so much for sharing this today!

    This was definitely a sad week. Sometimes it seems there are so many of them – but the words of forgiveness and compassion from the victims’ families were inspiring proof that hate will not win.

    Jules – hoorah for your friend Susannah and the good work that she does! And hooray for laughing so hard you cry!

    Stacey – yay for coffee, strawberries and summer places!

    Moira – congrats on successful little league seasons and ballet recitals!

    Jone – I saw Sophie on PetWalk!!! Very cool! Shopping and wine tasting are great kicks. As is dancing!

    My kicks this week:
    1) The big beautiful pitbull smile on Daisy when her dogsitter showed up to stay with her for a few days.
    2) Great result on a trial I worked on.
    3) Making the drive over Mt Hood to Bend – so gorgeous.
    4) Being in Bend for a work conference for a few days.
    5) An evening spent with 2 fun girlfriends from college. We laughed so hard my stomach still hurt the next day.
    6) Catch-up dinner with a buddy in Bend.
    7) Seeing colleagues I don’t see that often.
    7.5) Time to read by the pool and relax in the hot tub.
    8. ) Daisy’s big beautiful smile for me when I returned home.

    Happy summer and have a great week everyone! Keep sharing your happiness and shining your lights in the world!

  6. Good afternoon, Imps! Happy Sunday/Father’s Day/Summer Day!

    Hi Jessixa! Thanks for sharing your art with us. I dig the interior of Buckley’s home, especially the family portrait on the wall.

    Jules: Congrats to your friend Susannah! Wonderful that her efforts are being recognized and her work is being shared.

    Stacey: Enjoy summer with your family. Eat some strawberries for me!

    Hi Katy!

    Moira: Brava to your ballerina, and yay for your articles! Three cheers for peace.

    Jone: Virtual hugs for Sophie.

    Rachel: Great bookend kicks of Daisy smiles.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Performances
    2) Meetings
    3) Input
    4) Singing
    5) Movement
    6) Opportunities
    7) Belonging

  7. Stacey, happy almost-summer, and have fun on your trip. I haven’t read that book, no. But I’ll look into it. Will Judy Blume be speaking at a local event? I’m jealous.

    Hi Katy!

    Moira, thanks for the linkage. Love seeing your watercolors.

    Jone, happy summer! Please drink a glass of wine for me.

    Rachel, I love that you saw Sophie on Pet Walk. I love your 5th kick. That’s a good kind of night-out.

    Little Willow: Thanks. I’ve known Susannah since high school. She’s pretty flippin’ great. … Best of luck, as always, with any and all opportunities that come your way. Mwah.

  8. *sob*
    That BOOK! So, so beautiful. And so sad. But… I love picture books which help kids deal with the real.

  9. Truly enjoyed this post and detail regarding Jessixa’s beautiful book. Tender and moved me. Excited to see it live. Congratulations, Jessixa.
    Jules, congratulations on the mention in 100 Great Children’s Picture Books. That is a book I want as well.
    As for kicks, you just eclipsed my list by informing you’ve read Dory2. I am WILD about Dory. I don’t think I have laughed harder while reading a story than I did with Dory. My 10 year old son cracked up, too. Can’t wait!

  10. Hi Tanita!

    Samatha: I’m a Dory Evangelist. I’m always giving my copy of Dory #1 away to people and then replenishing my bookshelf. I’m sure I’ll continue to push Dory #2 on unsuspecting parents and librarians.

    And, yes, I’m so eager to read Salisbury’s book.

  11. […] ☕☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out this cool feature about Boats for Papa (with sketches and final illos) at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. […]

  12. […] interview with author-illustrator Jessixa Bagley, where (delightfully) she likens the planning of her career to the art of the mix tape, will be in […]

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