Today’s review is for The Was an Old Sailor, written by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Cassandra Allen, published by Kids Can Press. It is scheduled for release on March 1, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
We’ve all heard the tale of the old lady who swallowed a fly–but did you hear the one about the old sailor who swallowed a krill? No. Well, you’re in for a treat. The remake of a familiar folk song shifts the story from the farm to the sea. Children will giggle and sing along as the old sailor swallows increasingly large sea creatures.
Folk songs make for good toddler books, because parents don’t have to worry about not knowing how the song goes. But, sometimes, they also feel tired and dull. When you’ve sung something countless times, the craving to change things up can be intense. Saxby solves this problem by switching up the words. The struture, rhythm and rhyme-scheme of the original song remain intact, while the transition to a nautical theme is refreshing and fun. Her verse scans flawlessly, meaning that parents and educators won’t be left stumbling over misplaced beats or forced rhymes.
Allen’s pencil and gouache illustrations are round, plump, and appealing. They are cute enough for toddlers to love, and detailed enough to keep their wandering eyes engaged. The sailor himself is the perfect balance between old salt and grandpa. The swirling waves of the ocean create a great sense of movement, and will make you want to sway in time to the beat of the verse.
It takes a special talent to take something old and familiar and transform it into something new and equally enjoyable. I’m pleased that Saxby has such talent. This 4 star book is a great choice for parents who want to sing with their kids at home, or for librarians who are looking for something that will burn off some energy during story time. It also provides a great opportunity to talk with kids about marine biology, the food chain, and other nautical topics.
You can find more information about this book at Goodreads.