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adapted by Michael McCurdy, illustrated by Michael McCurdy

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-395-84167-4
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Some time in the 19th century, a sailor created this sea chantey, a rhythmic song to keep him and his mates working in tandem to keep a ship afloat. McCurdy (Trapped by the Ice!, 1997, etc.) has adapted the chantey into a picture book, with one line on each page—“Oh, A is the anchor and that you all know”—a scratchboard illustration, and a definition of terms below the picture. He makes a mighty effort toward clarity in describing and illustrating this US Navy frigate, although sometimes the vocabulary runs away with him, e.g., “Capstan: A large, spool-shaped winch . . . turned by sailors using capstan bars.” The function of chanteys is explained in a preface, and the whole chantey is reproduced at the end and keyed to an illustration of the full frigate, so all the parts can be seen together. The rectilinear geometry of the scratchboard illustrations is softened by watercolors to resemble old prints, and by the elegant angles found in various perspectives. The sailors in water-blue uniforms are young and rosy, or old and grizzled, and word-buffs and nautical enthusiasts will find plenty to pore over—halyards and lanyards, jibs and vangs. (Picture book. 5-9)