Subscribe to The Horn Book

Review of How It Feels to Be a Boat

How It Feels to Be a Boat
by James Kwan; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Houghton    40 pp.    g
7/17    978-0-544-71533-2    $16.99

Kwan provides a warm, kooky existential exploration of what it means to be a someone. (The opening dedication “To Chloe: Welcome to Earth!” seemingly provides his motivation.) A second-person narrative speaks directly to viewers: “You are a boat. Ahoy, ahoy! Raise your crooked anchor and head out to sea.” The boat is filled with cavernous rooms that house unusual characters — an octopus, a superhero, two gnomes, a brass band playing “doot-doot tunes” — along with one big pink “furnace-heart.” The boat sails some perilous seas, with interior squabbles and exterior threats. But strength, smarts, and an eye to the horizon see her through. Quixotic, individual language is matched by scratchy, cartoonlike illustrations, by turns ominous and reassuring in just the right places, and with playful details that add layers of understanding. Visionary and unique, this is the sort of book one could never predict, but one whose resonance is impossible to deny.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.



Thom Barthelmess About Thom Barthelmess

Thom Barthelmess is Youth Services Manager for the Whatcom County Library System in northwest Washington State.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind