I’ve been sharing some new releases lately as part of Perfect Picture Book Friday, but I thought I would take a step back from those this week and pull a few of my favorites from the past off my shelf. I’m such a fan of author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg that it’s hard to choose just one book. Many of you are probably familiar with The Polar Express and Jumanji, but there are many more magnificent titles. I’ll start with one and add a few bonus favorites for you.
Title: The Wreck of the Zephyr
Written and Illustrated by: Chris Van Allsburg
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 30th anniversary edition 2013
Suitable for ages: 4-7 (and older)
Themes/topics: possibility, pride
Once, while traveling along the seashore, I stopped at a small fishing village. After eating lunch, I decided to take a walk. I followed a path out of the village, uphill to some cliffs high above the sea. At the edge of these cliffs was a most unusual sight – the wreck of a small sailboat.
An old man was sitting among the broken timbers, smoking a pipe. He seemed to be reading my mind when he said, “Odd, isn’t it?”
At the edge of a cliff lies the wreck of a small sailboat. How did it get there? “Waves carried it up in a storm,” says an old sailor. But is it possible that waves could ever get that high? There is another story — the story of a boy and his obsessive desire to be the greatest sailor, the story of a storm that carried the boy and his boat to a place where boats glide like gulls high above the water and not upon it. Chris Van Allsburg tells that story of the boy and his boat, the Zephyr, in words and haunting, full-color pastel paintings. His sailboats sail the night sky with the stars in pictures so vivid that the reader can almost hear the wind in the sails. Here is a work of unusual artistry that will enchant readers of all ages for many years to come.
Activities and Resources:
Teacher’s Guides for all Van Allsburg’s books
Why I like his books:
What I love about all of Van Allsburg’s books is that sense of wonder and questioning that he leaves at the end of each story. He makes you think. The art is exquisite, the characters interesting, and the worlds intriguing. Some of the words used to describe his books: enchanting, mysterious, mystical, remarkable, original, and hauntingly beautiful.
As Chris Van Allsburg says on his WEBSITE: “The idea of the extraordinary happening in the context of the ordinary is what’s fascinating to me.”
Please share your favorite Van Allsburg book in the comments….
Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.