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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Boats for Papa, written and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $20.50 ages 4 and up

"A few days later it was Buckley's birthday. He and Mama had a glorious time. She gave him a brand new set of paints and brushes for making his boats. That evening, Buckley and Mama went for a walk. Buckley brought along the little boat ... "

Living in an idyllic ocean environment, Buckley and his mama love to explore the shore for driftwood. Using his many found treasures he builds things. His favorite of all activities is boat building - boats that he makes especially for his papa.

For his birthday celebration, Buckley and his mama have a beach picnic and she gifts him a set of brushes and paints to help with his hobby. Later in the day, he and mama take a stroll so that Buckley can send a boat to his papa.

"I'm going to send my boat to Papa. If it doesn't come back
to shore, I'll know he got it!" said Buckley as he placed his
little boat in the water. They watched it bob up and down
as the tide carried it gently out to sea."

He wants to send more. His mother agrees.

Each new boat is more beautiful than the last. He keeps the best to send to his papa. One year later, as they are celebrating Buckley's next birthday, he rushes back to their cabin to get forgotten paper to add a note to his newest 'boat for Papa'. He makes a sad discovery - and shows his understanding with the thoughtful note and boat his mama later discovers as she is walking the beach alone.

Buckley and his mama are both dealing with loss. The way that is handled in this beautiful story is a triumph for debut author Jessixa Bagley. With warm, detailed artwork she sets her story in peaceful environs awash with earthy natural tones, and gives both time to heal and honor Papa. There are so many lovely moments, tinged with both sadness and hope. Truly lovely.

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