At The Carle Bookshop we specialize in backlist picture books. Backlist is bookseller talk for the not-so-new picture books that you often can’t find at other bookstores. We carry the fabulous new books too (make sure to read our weekly Top of the Shelf posts for new book recommendations), but we know what makes us unique are the shelves and shelves of picture books you remember from your childhood or books you read to your own children. Each Friday, we’ll highlight one of these special older titles in case you may have missed it or forgotten about it along the way. Let’s keep the picture book alive and loved, shall we?
This week’s Friday Favorite is from 1975:
The Maggie B. by Irene Haas (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
This is what I would call a quiet book. A book meant to be read together, one-on-one, all tucked in and cozy. Margaret Barnstable wishes for her own sailing ship one night and when she wakes up, she’s aboard The Maggie B. She’s captain, crew, and cook all in one, with only her little brother for company, and she couldn’t be happier. In this fantasy adventure with no mention of parents, Margaret’s in charge and is like a parent herself, looking after her baby brother. Unlike a lot of modern books of sibling rivalry, these two get along just fine all on their own.
I love how Margaret’s character is completely competent and fearless. When a storm hits the boat, she’s bravely out in the thick of it preparing the ship and then is able to keep her brother calm, cozy and oh-so-well fed down below deck. The book taps perfectly into a child’s fascination with being the parent and playing “grown-up.” In contrast to her cluttered modern bedroom with too-big furniture on the first page, on The Maggie B., Margaret keeps a tidy, perfect-sized kitchen complete with old-fashioned oil lamps and a hand-pump sink. Dressed in a kerchief and apron, she resembles an little old lady, bustling around cooking, cleaning, gardening and looking after the baby.
The illustrations alternate between subtle watercolors and black-and-white drawings, and the soothing rhythmic text is dabbled with bits of sweet songs to sing. While aboard the Maggie B. the illustrations are small and contained on the page, reinforcing that this is a safe and cozy place. And indeed, this is a cozy book about true adventure and freedom. Margaret runs a tight ship and I for one would spend a day on The Maggie B. anytime.