Who’s to blame when everything goes wrong?
In the early 1600s, King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden ordered the construction of a mighty warship to be the flagship of his navy. After two years’ construction, the mighty Vasa was ready to sail on the afternoon of Aug. 10, 1628. Less than a mile into its maiden voyage, the Vasa, along with her crew and their families, sank into Stockholm’s harbor. After the calamity, Sweden began an investigation into why the ship so easily capsized. The results were inconclusive, although Freedman implies that the king’s desire for a superfluity of cannons may have been the cause. Centuries later, in the mid-1950s, the Vasa was raised and restored. Now housed in the Stockholm Museum, the Vasa is a popular tourist attraction. Freedman provides a lot of information to his readers, but with its compression into the picture-book format, the pacing is rushed. The ending—relating a reclaimed cannon to Sweden’s history of peace—feels tangential at best. Hopefully, curious readers will seek out the additional information about the Vasa, shipwrecks, and restoration provided in the bibliography. Low’s digital illustrations are sumptuous and stunning, and they could pass for traditional paintings. It’s unfortunate that the text does not live up to the artwork.
Like the Vasa, this feels not quite seaworthy. (Informational picture book. 8-10)