Susannah McFarlane (text) and Tamsin Ainslie (illustrator), Grumble Boats, Affirm Press, May 2021, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925712919
Grumble Boats is a beautiful picture book which is on the CBCA 2022 Early Childhood notables list. It’s about Emma who is grumpy about being babysat by Grandma while her family go to an exciting pirate party. Grandma responds by taking Emma and the dog for a walk on the beach. At the beach she encourages Emma to represent her feelings as a drawing on paper and then fold the paper into a boat. Why is Grandma doing this?
I enjoyed this sweet story of a grandmother’s love and patience for a grandchild – even if Grandma’s superb equanimity and wisdom seem idealised to me (could I ever be a Grandma like that?). The story’s messages that strong, uncomfortable emotions are universal and can be managed, are validating and encouraging. I was impressed with the idea of folding grumble boats to support a child to let go of grumpy feelings.
McFarlane’s text succinctly builds the story to an unexpected ending and portrays the grandchild grandparent relationship through authentic sounding dialogue. And Ainslie’s lovely watercolour images depict their interactions and emotions with realistic looking facial expressions and body language. The soft colours for the background sea and beach, with quaint coloured beach huts, evoke the pleasant, tranquil, brisk feel of a wintery beach scene.
Another special feature is instructions for folding a grumble boat, at the back of the book.
I recommend this book for 3-6 year olds who will relate to the child’s emotional experience and enjoy the heartening, sweet story.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz