Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Small Saul, written and illustrated by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press, 2011. $18.95 ages 3 and up
"Small Saul was hardly a natural pirate. Being rough and tough just wasn't in his nature.
He was good at Intro to Swabbing the Deck, but he was easily distracted during Treasure Map Interpretation."
Poor Saul! All he wants is a life at sea and the stars seem to be aligned against him. He's too small to be a sailor. However, upon searching out other options, he finds that he is eligible to enroll in Pirate College.
He's not what you would call 'cut out to be a pirate'. He does have skills with music and maps, and he's very good at keeping the decks spotless. Looting and hurting people is not on his 'bucket list'. With grim determination and a lot of thought and study, Saul passes the competency tests for would-be pirates and he's on his way.
The pirates on The Rusty Squid banter with him and tease him for his 'soft' ways. Saul can only do what he does best. It isn't long until he finds himself tossed overboard and adrift on the sea that he so loves. As he floats, the pirates make some interesting discoveries about Saul and his true worth:
"Small Saul may not have been your average pirate, but he had tried his best. He had made their ship a home. Just like treasure, Small Saul was rare."
Once they have him back on board, Small Saul forgives them for 'doing what comes naturally' to a pirate and a sense of calm settles over the ship.
Saul is a great character, willing to be himself while trying to fit in with the other pirates aboard his ship. His humorous attempts to be what he thinks they want him to be make him vulnerable and admirable, too. I have such respect for Ashley Spires' work. She adds such fun and sparkle to each page and gives us a clear picture of things left unsaid. Of her artwork, she says:
"The artwork in this book was rendered in ink, watercolor, water, flour, a cup of sugar, a dash of vanilla and baked at 350 degrees".
I say unequivocally that she has also added pinches, smidgens and dashes of humor, humility, wonder and great storytelling. This tale will be appreciated by anyone who has dared to dream, or has been the brunt of another's criticism; it will prove to each of them that honoring differences can make all the difference. Bravo!