Occasionally in my professional capacity--children's librarian, best job in the world--I come across books that are exceptional. This one came to me because a high school librarian had misordered a title and got a "picture book" instead.
The title is CANOE DAYS, by Gary Paulsen. The illustrations are by his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen. It's published by Dragonfly Books/Random House Children's Books, ISBN 0-329-25114-7.
The Paulsens have managed together to capture the essence of a quiet, solitary canoe ride on a northern lake on a summer day.
"Sometimes when it is still,
so still you can hear the swish
of a butterfly's wing--
sometimes when it is that still I take the canoe
out to the edge of the lake.
One stroke of the paddle...
...the sun on my back like a
golden friend on this perfect day.
A canoe day."
This is a book a boatchild would love, and one you can stand to read/listen to over and over. Along about Christmas, with the winter snow up well over the bottom step of the stoop, you might do with a reminder of a lazy summer day afloat.
While I'm at it, Gary wrote another book, VOYAGE OF THE FROG a few years back (1989). He is a prolific writer for intermediate/middle school kids. In VOYAGE Gary has the young protagonist setting out in a 22' sailboat (okay, so it's GRP) to scatter Uncle Owen's ashes. The FROG had been Uncle Owen's boat, but now it belongs to 14 year old David. David hates the task he's been charged with, but sets out anyway. Well, one thing leads to another, and David finds himself at sea off the California coast, and in a survival situation requiring all his knowledge and resources. This book is a good one for a 10-14 year old kid, especially one smitten with sailing. You might want to read it before wrapping it up.
I guess I'm on a roll here. Another summer float book that I came across last year is one written and illustrated by Jim LaMarche titled THE RAFT. It's published by HarperCollins, ISBN 0-688-13977-9.
Nicky is sent off to spend the summer with his grandmother, and he's none to happy about it.
" 'There's nobody to play with,' I complained. "She doesn't even have a TV.'"
So begins his experience with his unusual artist grandmother. The tale really gets going when Nicky is sitting on the dock, failing at fishing, and a raft drifts down the river. The raft becomes the vehicle connecting Nicky and his grandmother, and Nicky to himself and the world around him. The story was the most popular new book in my library last year with 6-9 year olds. I confess to being a bit partial to it myself. LaMarche's illustrations alone are worth the price of admission. I knew this was a keeper when I came to the part where Grandma is introduced to the raft, and produces a pole and a life jacket and says, "Let's go..."
Happy reading. And shopping. And sharing.