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The Picture Book Buzz

I Want a Boat! - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Boxes are magic; they can be anything and take us anywhere. I fondly remember some amazing rocket ship and submarine adventures that a big freezer box provided. This week's Perfect Picture Book Friday choice is a wonderful journey into a child's imagination.

I Want a Boat!

Author: Liz Garton Scanlon

Illustrator: Kevan Atteberry

Publisher: Holiday House (2021)

Ages: 4-6



Imagination and adventure.


With nothing but spare text and a bright imagination, I Want a Boat! follows a girl as she finds a way to transform a plain old box in an ordinary room into a magical sailboat, complete with a rudder, sail, and anchor. She and her stuffed-animal friends take to the high seas, encounter raging storms, and make it to dry land, just in time for supper.

Award-winning author Liz Garton Scanlon's sprightly text and candy-colored, kid-friendly illustrations by Kevan Atteberry (Ghost Cat, Dear Beast) make this a perfect read-aloud for the youngest child.

Opening Lines:

I have a box.

I want a boat.

I have a boat.

I want a rudder.

Craft Note:

I love how Kevan Atteberry begins the story on the title and dedication pages by choosing the narrator, a determined little girl, and showing her finding a box beside the trash and man-handling it back to her room. The very sparse text, made up of four-word sentences, provides no guidance as to the child or her crew. It is the wild and wonderful imagination of Kevan that pulls it all together.

What I Like about this book:

Setting out a succinct and rhythmic pattern, the text establishes a simple, yet very effective "I have - I want" format. With each new want creating another aspect of the child's boat or her adventure.

Text © Liz Garton Scanlon, 2021. Image © Kevan Atteberry, 2021.

The softly colored, pastel illustrations contain so many treasures. Be sure to note the child's drawings on the wall and the actions of her stuffies as she creates her boat and wishes for the sea. The illustrations also provide a possible nod to Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, by beginning in the child's room as images framed with a significant amount of white space. As the girl's imagination grows, and she imagines her boat and crew (the stuffies on the bed) out to sea, the images get bigger and bigger until you get full-bleed spreads over both pages.

Text © Liz Garton Scanlon, 2021. Image © Kevan Atteberry, 2021.

I love Kevan's addition of the seagulls, turtle, and fish! Their expressions throughout are priceless. So, now that the girl and her crew have the world and the sky, what could they want next?

Text © Liz Garton Scanlon, 2021. Image © Kevan Atteberry, 2021.

I'm not exactly sure why she wishes for a storm, but she does. When things get rough, her imagination allows her settle things down and to wish for her crew and the map again. I think the combination of the animals' faces and their antics keeps this section from becoming overwhelmingly scary, even though dark and tumultuous. And it's safe to imagine a little danger when you are also able to easily imagine the solution.

As the girl returns to shore, perhaps in the text's own nod to the Where the Wild Things Are, she discovers she's hungry. As she wraps up her imaginative journey, the illustrations progressively return to her room/house and white bordered images, until the final page. Wait until you see this illustration!

Overall, Liz and Kevan have created a wonderful ode to a child's imagination and the adventures that can be created from a box. One that I imagine kids are going to love reading over and over and over again. A book I hope finds a port of call in many public and private libraries.


- what would you imagine a box to be? Where would you go and who would go with you?

- why do you think the girl wanted a storm? Would have wished for a storm? If not, write a list or draw pictures of the adventure(s) you would imagine having.

- looking around your bedroom or playroom, who would make up your crew?

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Liz Garton Scanlon and Kevan Atteberry (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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