"You're getting too old for a stuffed animal," young Jonathan's parents tell him. "So we traded your bear for a toaster." Jonathan doesn't argue; instead, he drifts down to the wharf to visit the Big Blue Boat he admires. Suddenly he has a plan; with the turn of a page the boat is "steaming like a tea kettle," and Jonathan is off to search the world for his bear, Frederick. Children crave the power to control their own lives, and Jonathan's adventure offers just that. Animal friends join the crew when there's trouble; pirates attack, but they're not too scary. Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee) uses squiggly ink lines and washes of warm color against a background of collaged newsprint, charts, and stamps that underscore the nautical theme and distance traveled. Frederick shows up at the end in the nicest possible way, and Jonathan's slow, reflective journey—filled with pitch-perfect details, sound effects, and vocabulary ("Full steam ahead," "marooned," a cannon's "ker-blammm!!!")—offers a lovely, gentle adventure for younger readers. Ages 4–8. (June)
“The text has a gentle, meandering flavor with a repeated cumulative refrain…. The illustrations are striking…” BCCB
“Children will happily shift their focus from big to little, from large shapes to tiny numbers, from Jonathan's story to the pieces that make up its pictures.” Starred, Kirkus Reviews
“Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee) uses squiggly ink lines and washes of warm color against a background of collaged newsprint, charts, and stamps that underscore the nautical theme and distance traveled . . . . a lovely, gentle adventure for younger readers.” Starred, Publishers Weekly
“Stead combines playful compositions and his hero's serious intent in a winning combination. What at first seems almost whimsical, upon closer inspection reveals careful planning in each illustration.” Shelf Awareness
“Stead skillfully employs color to reflect Jonathan's mood: an initial bright sky when the boy and Frederick are together, growing darkness as he sets off alone, and a final scene in which an orange-bright "globe" sun beams its rays on the reunited travelers. A gentle tale heralding imagination's triumph over disappointment.” School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—When Jonathan learns that his parents have traded his stuffed bear for a toaster, he seeks solace at the wharf where he and Frederick have spent happy hours viewing a big blue boat. In a flash of inspiration, Jonathan decides to take the retired vessel on a voyage, around the world if necessary, to find his bear. Several animals join him: a goat who frees the boat marooned overnight atop a mountain, an elephant retired from the circus, and a whale that saves the sinking ship after it is fired upon by pirates. They eventually arrive at a pawnshop where they find the girl who now owns Frederick, and she and the bear also come aboard. Youngsters will enjoy repeating the sentence that announces each traveler's addition to the expedition: "And that is how ___ came to sail the sea on a Big Blue Boat." And they will especially relish poring over the collage, acrylic, and ink artwork. Sepia-colored vignettes alternate with large illustrations that incorporate maps, stamps from distant places, postcards, and marine signals. Stead skillfully employs color to reflect Jonathan's mood: an initial bright sky when the boy and Frederick are together, growing darkness as he sets off alone, and a final scene in which an orange-bright "globe" sun beams its rays on the reunited travelers. A gentle tale heralding imagination's triumph over disappointment.—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
After Jonathan's parents trade his teddy bear Frederick for a more useful and age-appropriate toaster, he sets sail on a rusty Big Blue Boat to find his lost toy.
Layers of watercolor over bits of collaged found paper deliver deft, dappled illustrations with remarkable depth, leaving readers feeling as if they're peering down into rippling waters. Children will happily shift their focus from big to little, from large shapes to tiny numbers, from Jonathan's story to the pieces that make up its pictures. A similar, subtle (and enchanting) disjointedness occurs as readers hear how Jonathan picks up his unlikely crew: a mountain goat, a circus elephant and a whale. The story sounds almost improvised, spouting spontaneously from a child's rambling mind and taking a random, fanciful course. The Big Blue Boat teeters on top of a mountain after a storm, then runs into a circus, then meets up with scaredy-cat pirates, then finds itself saved from sinking by a whale. Stead gently establishes an element of suspense through both his patchwork illustrations and his bumpy narrative, keeping readers on their toes. When Jonathan steps inside a city shop and sees his bear in the arms of the girl behind the counter, they're right with him.
Stead encourages children to puzzle over minutia, readying them to think about more opaque topics: growing up, obsolescence and the intrigue of old, forgotten things. (Picture book. 2-6)