Thursday 2 February 2012

There was an Old Sailor

There was an Old Sailor by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Cassandra Allen (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921720765
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Winner of the Crystal Kite Member Choice Award, Australia and New Zealand Division, SCBWI, 2011, There was an Old Sailor is a joyful tale written in verse of a gluttonous sailor. It begins and ends with laughter on the reader’s lips.

The feast began when ‘he swallowed a krill’. That it will make him ill didn’t seem to bother him so he ‘swallowed a jelly, that wriggled and wriggled and jiggled his belly’ to catch the krill. It seems his appetite was whetted for then he swallows in turn and in rhyming verse, a fish, then an unbroken chain of other fishes of sorts to catch the previous one. But he ‘had to kneel to swallow the seal’ and ‘it must have been dark when he swallowed the shark.’

His tummy is growing and growing and it appears that so is his hunger. It’s when he swallows ‘the whale to catch the seal’ that the biggest burp exits his cavernous tummy and he sets sail.

What joyful galloping rhyme and rhythm this book has with its accompanying, beautiful and subtle coloured illustrations. The fly pages show a swirling aqua sea with fish swimming. The title page has the Old Sailor looking out to sea through his hand-held telescope.  The front cover depicts the sailor and his rotund upper body, with a krill sitting on his rounded shoulder.  The back cover is a replica of the sea and fish depicted on the fly pages. The book is perfect for reading out loud; for listening to, and for the simple pleasure of reading by young and older aged readers

It was extremely satisfying to see the listing of the media used for the excellent illustrations – gouache and pencil, on the publication page. I have longed for this information to be included for interested readers/collectors of picture books since I wrote about the exhibition of children’s books at Birrarung Marr long ago.  Good for you Walker Books! May all the publishers of illustrated books follow in your footsteps.

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