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BLUE BOAT by Kersten Hamilton


by Kersten Hamilton ; illustrated by Valeria Petrone

Pub Date: May 24th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-451-47141-3
Publisher: Viking

A tugboat rescues a sailing family in distress in this picture book.

Although the premise of the story appears to be simple and harmless—anthropomorphized Blue Boat responds to a mayday call from a family on their damaged sailboat (“Missing rudder, broken fin— / wild nor’easter blowing in!”), thereby saving the day—it nonetheless raises disturbing questions. Unaddressed is how the sailboat came to sustain the major damage of losing its rudder and breaking its keel, why the family is out sailing when a nor’easter is coming, and, on a visual note, why the adults aren’t wearing life preservers. It’s hard not to conclude that the sailing family has made some pretty irresponsible decisions, and so the fundamental storyline sours, at least for readers who know sailing. While the illustrations are bright and attractive, some are inaccurate. Cutters, mentioned on a double-page spread, are a type of sailboat with more than one headsail, but the illustration shows sloops, and a mooring line should be tied to a cleat on a sailboat’s deck, not to the lifeline as shown (although as an irresponsible decision, it stays true to the story). Making matters even worse, the clueless sailing family is multiracial (light-skinned mom, dark-skinned dad), and Blue Boat’s captain is white—that she is also a woman does not redeem the story from white-savior symbolism.


(Picture book. 2-5)