cover image The Lost Sailor

The Lost Sailor

Pam Conrad. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-021695-5

A sailor renowned for his skill encounters a storm that defeats even his abilities. His ship goes down, but he washes ashore on a desert island, where he lives for many years, until he accidentally starts a fire that destroys all he has but serves to beckon a nearby ship. Following Conrad and Egielski's exceptional previous collaboration ( The Tub People ), their latest offering comes as a disappointment. The story's only point--that luck can assume unlikely guises--is, as told here, thin, unconvincing and a bit facile. Conrad's evident attempt to make the protagonist a kind of epic figure--we know him only as ``the sailor'' or ``the lost sailor,'' for he is not given a name or any other personal characteristics--distances the reader and results in a narrative that, despite some deft turns of phrase, is devoid of emotion. Egielski's watercolors pack more dramatic punch and, especially in his depictions of the solitary figure on the lush but abandoned island, contain more food for the imagination. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)