cover image Sail Away

Sail Away

Florence McNeil. Orca Book Publishers, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-55143-147-5

At the launch of this buoyant nautical caper, a boy dressed in a pirate costume drags a basket of stuffed animals toward a claw-footed tub, draws a bath and assembles a toy ship. McPhail's (Those Can-Do Pigs) good-natured, warm-hued pictures, which offer the artist's customary, appealing balance of old-fashioned and whimsical sensibilities, suddenly shift tack as a turn of the page reveals the now life-size animals and their pirate captain readying an actual ship for sail. McNeil's (Catriona's Island) minimal text comprises a litany of sailing terms as the motley crew (including a peg-legged crocodile, a pink elephant sporting a heart-shaped tattoo dedicated to ""Mom"" and a diminutive blue rabbit wearing an eye patch) pitches in to scrape the bottom, swab the decks, mend the sails and launch the craft. Once afloat, the mates tighten the shrouds, bail the bilge, hoist the halyards, etc., until, at last, they ""sail away."" These last words appear under the final illustration, showing the young sailor in the tub with his boat, his toy crew standing by. The author wraps up this salty sea voyage with a glossary of ""Sailor Talk."" Youngsters familiar with the sea and boats will be especially tickled to climb aboard and weigh the anchor. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)