Boats that ply the waters of California’s San Francisco Bay Area are highlighted in this picture book.
Beginning with “A houseboat rocks by a dock,” Harvey uses short sentences, with occasional internal rhymes, to introduce readers to a day of boat life on the bay. The text’s brevity is juxtaposed against McFerrin’s full-bleed double-page spreads, which, with their retro palette, cut-collage shapes, and freehand drawing overlay, are reminiscent of mid-20th-century advertising graphics. Their overall impression, though, is somewhat somber and emotionally removed since the palette leans toward the cool, blue end of the spectrum. The people illustrated are predominantly unsmiling, profile or rear-aspect adults (many white, though the stylized images permit other interpretations) who come across as preoccupied and distant rather than engaging of readers. The narrative however, is completely approachable, with a pleasing circularity, as the story ends where it began—with the houseboat, now at the end of the day. The book’s design is well thought out; the page turn after the text, “A barge sets off fiery fireworks” becomes a wordless double gatefold as the scene lifts up to show fireworks against the city skyline with boats and water in the foreground. Pleasingly, the book’s boards are imprinted with a design different from the dust jacket.
A well-designed book with a simple, approachable text and emotionally aloof illustrations. (Picture book. 4-8)