cover image The Goodbye Boat

The Goodbye Boat

Mary Joslin. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, $16 (28pp) ISBN 978-0-8028-5186-4

With minimal text and artwork that brims with symbolism, this picture book explores the difficult subject matter of the death of a loved one and a family's ensuing grief. Joslin and St. Louis Little introduce a young family enjoying a beach outing with an elderly woman. Before long, the woman and two children see a large ship approach and the woman apparently gets on board, sailing out of sight leaving ""sad friends... weeping"" on the shore. Later (several seasons have passed) we see her standing on the ship's deck ""sailing somewhere new."" While the spare text is evocative and thought-provoking, coupled with the sequence of paintings here, its brevity will likely prove confusing for young readers. The elderly woman waves goodbye on one page, then on the next page she's back, petting the dog. The season also turns from sunny summer to chilly fall on the same spread. Joslin's overarching message, that the pain of grief eventually subsides and that there is a positive afterlife experience, is a comforting one; unfortunately, it's poorly executed. Although her characters have limbs that sometimes appear rubbery and out of proportion, the artist achieves an appropriately sentimental and sometimes serene mood in her oil paintings. Ages 2-up. (Feb.)