“A boy. A boat. A rainy day. An adventure.” That’s what the jacket flap of Daniel Miyares’ Float promises readers. Indeed, it is an adventure, the kind made of the most elemental components—hope and security and resiliency.
The plot itself is not a complicated one. On a grey day, promising rain, a young boy folds a newspaper page into a boat. He’s having a great time with the boat on the flowing waters of his neighborhood, streams made from a massive downpour, but the boat is carried away down a storm drain. When he finds it, he sees the rain has undone his creation, and it’s in sorrow that the boy heads home, where he’s greeted by a comforting hug from the person we assume is his father. The next day, one promising clear skies and sun, he makes a paper airplane from the newspaper, and the story concludes with him playing outside with the plane, a grin plastered on his face.
This is a wordless tale and a book to really dive into. The palette—reminiscent in some ways of my very favorite picture book, Ruth Krauss’ The Happy Day, illustrated by Marc Simont—is dominated by greys. The boy in his sunny yellow raincoat is often the brightest spot on the spread. Save the subtle spots of faded blue and red (from the newpaper page) on the boat itself, he offers the only color, and it’s striking, this jubilant yellow a reminder of the boy’s gratitude for the downpour.
And what a downpour it is. My favorite spread in the book features thick, bold grey and white lines, barreling down—with the boy’s yellow coat a distant smudge on the right side of the spread. Find a copy and study what Miyares does with the compelling lines in this book; it’s beguiling. The book itself is horizontally oriented—not surprising for the story of a boat chugging along on neighborhood streets, while the boy chases it—but the vertical lines for the rain, the streams (on one spread, we’re given an aerial view of the boy’s play in the water), and the tall houses the boy flies by also draw the reader’s eye. It’s this balance of lines in the book that makes for such pleasing compositions.
The illustrations, rendered via watercolors with digital tools, hardly contain themselves on full-bleed spreads; they fill every inch of the book and are sometimes divided into very broad panels (two panels on some pages) that advance the story even further. The page turns are as compelling as the lines, given the boy’s race to catch the boat. And when he gives up all resistance, heading back home with the dismantled boat in his hands, he turns around to head back, as if heading to the beginning of the book. This abrupt change in the book’s line captures beautifully the story’s emotional beat in this moment—not to mention, just prior to that, the sudden blackness of the storm drain. In this moment, Miyares places readers right under the street, watching the action take place, the boat descending and the boy’s arm grasping for it.
It’s an entrancing story with distinct rhythms. The uncluttered spreads are a perfect choice; an overly detailed book would detract from the immensely gratifying and gentle tale of perseverance the book is. It captures the basic human desire to prosper and find hope in the new beginning of a new day. In large part, the boy is able to do so after the support given him by the parent who hugs him upon his return. It’s a tender moment, this illustration. No words necessary.
It’s also a smartly designed book. The front endpapers feature folding instructions (also wordless) for a paper boat, and the final endpapers, instructions for a plane. Be sure to remove the dust jacket for a different and altogether satisfying cover illustration.
Find a copy to share with your favorite child. The glowing final spread, so resplendent in its joy as the boy plays with his plane, is worth the price of admission alone. It’s one moment, in a book full of many of them, that soars.
FLOAT. Copyright © 2015 by Daniel Miyares. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York. Illustration reproduced by permission of Daniel Miyares.
Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.