cover image Sailor Song

Sailor Song

Nancy Jewell, Nancy Jewell Geller. Clarion Books, $13 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-82511-2

""Listen, my love,/ and I'll sing you a song./ I'll sing you a song of the sea,"" says the sailor's wife to her child at bedtime. A series of images follows, describing a sailor's trip home from the ocean, through woods and grassy field, to a country house and up the stairs into the child's waiting arms. Jewell's poetic text is comprised of lilting rhythms that echo the ""waves lapping/ in the night"" and illuminate the ""watery moon-path/ clear and bright"" of the sailor ""who's been/ a long time away/ now sailing his boat/ toward shore."" However, the child's refrain after each stanza--""Mama, Mama,/ sing me some more""--disrupts the lovely cadence and progression of the ballad. Vitale saturates wooden panels with oils of ocean blue and sunset tangerine that seem to undulate from shore or horizon. His inventive designs depict the reflected light of the moon on shimmering water, the stars sprinkling the nightscape like snow and fireflies dancing atop a field of flowers. But the conceit of having the sailor's ship represent the sailor himself seems unnecessarily confusing, especially when readers see not the sailor but the bow of the ship ascending the stairway to the child's bedroom. The stylized wooden stares of the characters constrain rather than enhance the warmth of the text. Those who admired the sweet simplicity and felicitous combination of art and text in Jewell and Vitale's Christmas Lullaby may find this bedtime book less successful. Ages 3-6. (Mar.)