Review of Ahoy!

by Sophie Blackall; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Schwartz/Random    48 pp.
4/24    9780593429396    $19.99
Library ed.  9780593429402    $22.99
e-book ed.  9780593429419    $10.99

Picture books about imaginary play can be belabored or overly precious. Not so Blackall’s brilliantly constructed latest. The opening setting is a living room (just a suggestion of one—we mostly see an ocean-colored rug). Here we meet a child gathering items needed for a pretend sea voyage while an adult vacuums. As the child exhorts the adult to join in, we begin to see intimations of the coming seascape: the cat, poking its head under the rug, creates swelling waves; patterned pillows evoke shark fins; etc. Then, with a page-turn, we are plunged into the book’s make-believe world—child and adult aboard a fully rigged multi-masted schooner on the high seas, about to encounter a storm (and sharks!). The mixed-media and digital illustrations are alternately gorgeous and rich in character and humor. For example, on one spread the adult’s cell phone rings (“blah blah blah…”), temporarily returning us to real life (“we are in the doldrums,” bemoans the discouraged child). Blackall excels at setting the stage for the imaginary play with one-to-one equivalents (the vacuum, with its long cord, easily transforms into a giant squid; a paper-towel roll becomes a spyglass) and then making us forget all that, immersing us in the book’s imaginary world, wholly capturing the experience of imaginary play. “ANCHORS…AWEIGH!” Glossary of sailing terms included.

From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is a contributing editor to The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.