Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat


Written and Illustrated by Philip C. Stead

Roaring Book Press, 2011

“It makes me feel very small,” said Jonathan to Frederick.  He held Frederick up high so he could see the Big Blue Boat too.

Previously Reviewed Books from this Author:  A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Jonathan’s parents trade his beloved bear, Frederick, for a toaster and Jonathan sails away on a boat (that’s coincidentally big and blue) to find him.  Jonathan meets and befriends an elephant, a mountain goat and a whale, and runs afoul of a band of pirates along the way.  He eventually finds Frederick with a little girl who has claimed him as her new best friend, which poses an interesting dilemma for Jonathan (and those children reading the book who will identify with him).  He solves the problem by inviting the little girl to share his boat and bring Frederick with her, which sets a wonderful example of kindness and inclusion.

The elephant wears a fez.  Fezzes are cool.

The elephant wears a fez. Fezzes are cool.

This is another story from Philip C. Stead, the author of the wonderful A Sick Day for Amos McGee.  Mr. Stead takes over the artwork on this one and uses the less frequently seen medium of collage to give his pictures a fascinating depth of meaning.  I found myself getting lost, over and over again, in the collages.  The collages feature maps, postcards, stamps, ledgers and other paper media to create colorful pictures that enhance the story.

The story itself is also a departure from the ordinary, as it’s a grounded story with moments of whimsy and things left unexplained, which I love.  Kids are experts at filling in the spaces and coming up with fun, creative ways to answer the questions that stories leave unanswered, so it’s great to see books that give them the chance to use their imaginations.  There was nothing predictable about this book, which is one of the main reasons I loved it.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that every journey is full of unexpected moments and sometimes those turn out to be what the journey was about to begin with.


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