Saturday, November 3, 2012

Book #308: The Maggie B. by Irene Haas

Image from
“This is a story of a wish come true. Margaret Barnstable wished on a star one night--”

And what did she wish for? To sail on a ship named after herself, alone and free, with “someone nice for company.” When she woke up the next morning she found herself on the deck of The Maggie B. with her dear baby brother, James, for company. All day long they did just as they pleased, eating food from the ocean and the farm on the poop deck. They sang and played, cooked and napped until the sky grew thick with clouds and the ocean churned. Then Margaret bundled little James into the cabin and she readied the ship for the storm. Then the siblings settled down to eat a scrumptious meal in the cabin while the wind howled and the rain lashed at the windowpanes. Then Margaret rocked James to sleep in his cradle and when she got up to look out the window she realized the storm was gone. She was back in her room and her day on The Maggie B. was over.

There’s something wonderfully magical about this surreal story of adventure and freedom on the high seas. The text relates the tale in a conversational tone and Haas includes the kind of details that kids are interested in, such as what the siblings eat for lunch. Haas incorporates four rhyming songs into the story, which adds variety and musicality to the book. The illustrations are a combination of watercolor paintings in bright colors and grayscale brush paintings. The characters are short and round and I love Margaret’s printed dresses. Although the ship is tiny the farm on the deck yields tomatoes the size of Margaret’s head and the lobster caught from the ocean is as big as baby James! There’s a cozy quality to the illustrations, like cuddling up with a good book in front of a fire on a stormy night.

Read this book as part of a storytime on siblings. Talk about the ways that Margaret is a good sister to James in the book. For instance, she sings him lullabies and makes him baked peaches for dessert. Ask the kids what kinds of things they do to take care of their siblings. Good book pairings include, A Few Blocks, Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly, Shhh!, and Lola Reads to Leo.

You could also use this book for a storytime about ocean adventures. Try pairing it with Little Boat, Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat or The Adventures of Polo. Have kids design a ship named after themselves, just as Margaret does in the book. What kind of amenities would the ship have? What kind of food would you eat and how would it get to the boat? Who would you choose to be your “someone nice for company”?

This is also a lovely book to read before bed because of the number of lullaby-like songs and the quiet ending of the book.

You will probably be quite hungry after reading this book (I seem to gravitate towards food-oriented books). If peaches are in season, try slicing them in half and baking them as Margaret does in the book. Try this simple recipe from the And Baby Cakes Three blog.

Thanks to Chris for reminding me to take another look at this book. It’s just as good now as when I was 3 years old!


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