A pleasing historical tale about a boy willing to work hard for what he desires most—a book.
“One sunny day, Jesse King and his pa drove into town.” The year is 1835 in an agricultural area. Children will immediately notice colorful barges in the canal. The one that excites Jesse is Mr. Edwards’ book boat, which comes through occasionally. Inside, Jesse quickly spots a red book: his favorite, The Swiss Family Robinson. Jesse longs to own it, but Pa cannot afford it and suggests Jesse might earn the money. The text is laced with dialogue featuring homey turns of phrase, revealing Jesse’s passion for stories and capturing the warmth between the characters. Naïve folk-art–style paintings in bright gouache reflect Jesse’s hopeful, eager nature. Although simply rendered, the facial expressions speak volumes. Jesse cheerfully labors throughout the week at a store, a stable and more, illustrating what life was like in the 19th century. (An author’s note explains the history of floating libraries.) When the book boat comes back, Jesse finds the red book is gone, but Mr. Edwards has a solution.
Jesse’s pride of ownership and the closing scene of Jesse writing his name and the year in his very first book will resonate with book lovers of all ages. (Picture book. 4-8)