Posted by: Erica Gillingham | May 3, 2012

Arthur’s Dream Boat

Arthur’s Dream Boat

Polly Dunbar, London: Walker Book, ISBN 978-1-4063-2714-4, £11.99 (UK only), 2012.

In my post on children’s poetry a few weeks ago, I referenced Here’s a Little Poem, a poetry book completely illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Well, after a recent trip to the book shop, I was delighted to pick up Dunbar’s most recent picture book: Arthur’s Dream Boat (2012). Anything with boats usually catches my eye, but as you can see from the cover, too, Arthur is a loveable character from the outset–who doesn’t want stripy pyjamas, a yellow housecoat and a spotty sailboat on your head?!

The opening end papers are a soft watercolour scene of a sail boat (at the edge of the left-hand page) on the wide, wide sea. Turning to the title page, the sun has risen, bright and circular in the sky, and the sailboat has traveled to the centre of the right-hand page. Follow to the next page over and–oh!–the sailboat is on Arthur’s head! A little white sailboat with Arthur stretching himself awake, a tabby cat at the foot of his bed and the family dog sleeping on the floor.

Just like motion of the sailboat on the initial pages of Dunbar’s picture book, the reader is taken along on the journey of building Arthur’s dream boat. Not the physical building of it, mind you, but the descriptive building of the boat. On each double page spread, Arthur meets another family member–starting with his dog, then his brother, mother, sister, and father–and with each interaction a texture of the sailboat is added to both the description and the illustration. Arthur’s dream boat is being influenced by those around him and becomes more and more vibrant with each page–and it takes the keen eye of the reader to sometimes find the source of the inspiration!

However, even with their integral part in creating his dream boat, Arthur’s family is not listening to his dream. Frustrated, he musters all his might and manifests his DREAM BOAT… the winds slowly whirl around him as the water seeps into the house, sweeping up Arthur’s family into his dream boat and Arthur a happy captain sailing off into the sunset.

On this amazing journey, Arthur becomes the creator of his own dream. Still, the reader is left to wonder: what is a dream within a dream? Or did it really happen after all? Only you can decide…

Photo by Erica Gillingham

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