Book: Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue
Author: Calista Brill
Illustrator: Tad Carpenter
Age Range: 3-7
Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue by Calista Brill and Tad Carpenter is about a small tugboat named Bill and a rather beat-up barge named Mabel who work in the Hudson River. Bill and Mabel are friends, but they are essentially bullied by larger, newer ships. When the opportunity comes to rescue a kitten, however, it's the small, beat-up boats who really shine.
Calista Brill's writing is read-aloud friendly, with short sentences but strong vocabulary words. Like this:
"The river is home to other ships, too.
They are big
They are fit
They are haughty
almost all of the time.
(They think they are so great.)"
squares her shoulders
braces her hull
and pretends she doesn't hear.
But she does.
And so does Bill."
She uses sound effects, too, like "BLURB!" and "KERPLUNK".
Tad Carpenter's illustrations are bright and friendly, with a graphic design feel. Both Bill and Mabel are engaging and distinctive, while the mean big boats are delightfully nasty. The crowd on the shore is multicultural, if you count blue and green people mixed in with the yellow ones (which I do).
My only complain about Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue is that the ending, in which the big boats are regretful and hordes of people cheer for Bill and Mabel, is a bit ... easy. Sure, any reader will expect that the nice Mabel and Bill will do the right thing, and will be glad that they get a happy ending. But just because one gets public credit for doing the right thing doesn't mean that one's bullies will immediately come around. Still, just because my adult sensibilities had a hard time accepting this doesn't mean that it's not going to please preschoolers. And I do like that this is a subtle portrayal of bullying, masked as it is by the personification of the boats. And I think it's good to show kids characters who don't hesitate or waffle, but just go ahead and do the right thing without even thinking about it.
Between the fun of the word choices and sound effects, the accessibility of the pictures, and the inherent coolness of tugboats, I think that young listeners will be captivated by Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue. It would make a great library read-aloud for preschoolers, and is a must for any kid who is obsessed with boats and/or rescues. Recommended!
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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