cover image Boats for Papa

Boats for Papa

Jessixa Bagley. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62672-039-8

Buckley, a beaver, lives with his mother at the shore. Papa isn’t with them; what happened to him isn’t revealed, but it’s clear that mother and son are coping with a big loss. Buckley spends his days creating increasingly more elaborate boats for his father from driftwood he finds on the beach, lovingly launching each one with a note, “For Papa. Love, Buckley.” “If it doesn’t come back to shore,” Buckley tells his mother, “I’ll know he got it!” One day, Buckley discovers that all the boats have come back—and he learns something important about his mother’s love as well. Bagley makes an impressive debut with this somber but never maudlin story about sadness, resilience, and an emotional coming of age. The pen-and-watercolor renderings of her two characters can feel slightly blocky and awkward, but it’s a deeply empathic story with an accomplished sense of place. In beautiful tones of blue and brown, she immerses readers in the coastal world where Buckley and his mother are trying to make sense of their lives. Ages 3–7. Agent: Alexandra Penfold, Upstart Crow Literary. (June)