cover image Sal Boat (A Boat by Sal)

Sal Boat (A Boat by Sal)

Thyra Heder. Abrams, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4197-5750-1

“Sal loved the water. He liked to imagine it moving under his feet.” With junk from his mother’s garage and pickings from local businesses, he starts building. In the family’s harbor town, word spreads quickly, and soon the project is the recipient of advice and even jokes: “Looks like a sinker!” But Sal, who presents as white, doesn’t take any guff. “This isn’t a game,” he says to other kids who overrun the worksite, “it’s my BOAT.” Heder (How Do You Dance?) works in watercolor and sculptural pencil, scrawling words of dialogue over the art and capturing the ramshackle charms of harbor life via piled-up lobster traps and other detritus. In a film-worthy climax, Sal runs into a potentially tragic difficulty, and the diverse community of people that teased him before rallies to his rescue. Heder zooms in on the expressions that cross Sal’s face as he realizes his error: frustration, tearful despair, and resolve. Sal’s creation is the kind of inventive structure that beckons readers who daydream about adventure, and the resourceful realization of his vision offers deep satisfaction. Ages 4–8. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Aug.)