cover image The Green Ship

The Green Ship

Quentin Blake. Red Fox, $9.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-09-925332-7

An aura of melancholy pervades this imaginative tale about two youngsters who come upon a topiary ship, brought to life with Blake's (Mrs. Armitage and the Big Wave) familiar, whimsical illustrations. Alice and her narrator brother, while on summer holiday at their aunt's, discover a green ""ship"" next door made from bushes trimmed in the shapes of a bow and stern and trees shaped to resemble smokestacks and masts. While the siblings explore the tree-house-like wheelhouse, two grownups appear: an elderly woman and a man she refers to as ""Bosun"" (whom, the boy observes, ""actually looked more like a gardener""). The woman invites the children to tea, and to return the next day, saying, ""I'm sure that's what the Captain would have wished."" The captain takes on an air of mystery, as his identity goes unexplained (perhaps he is her late husband?), and the woman invokes his name as the crew sails to exotic fantasy destinations. One dramatic spread of the trio in the wheelhouse during a lightning storm, violet hues abundant, bears a striking resemblance to a ship on turbulent seas. Readers caught up in the fanciful voyages may grow sad at book's end for, with the passing years, the ship loses its shape as the trees become overgrown, leading the narrator to conclude, ""Soon there will no longer be any way at all of knowing that they were once the Green Ship."" As with Shel Silverstein's Giving Tree, the duo's memories alone keep the Green Ship and its journeys alive. Ages 7-10. (Jan.)