PPBF: My Father’s Arms are a Boat

Author: Stein Erik Lunde
Illustrator: Øyvind Torseter

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books, 2013
Age Level: 4 and up
Themes: fathers and sons, death
Opening: My dad isn’t listening to the radio. He’s sitting in the living room, where the only sound is the crackling of the fire. When I was there with him, I saw the tongues of the fire lick his face. I went over and put my hand on his arm, and he patted my hand. Then I went into my room and got into bed.
Summary: Unable to sleep, a young boy climbs into his father’s arms and asks about birds, foxes, and whether his mother will ever awaken, then under a starry sky, the father provides clear answers and assurances.

Why I Like This Book: I don’t think I need to explain why I think the artwork is breathtaking, but so is the story it tells, and the concept – too rarely found in American books. Looking for images I found a touching review which ‘hit the spot’ perfectly – HERE, at A Teacher’s Perspective. Life’s stories don’t usually end on a high note – it’s what we make of them that matters. I have to return this book to the library. I’ve had it out for the maximum of weeks allowed. But you can bet I ordered it.  It won’t take much convincing to have my local indie bookseller stock this one.

Activities: I feel the illustrations will motivate any child to draw and cut his or her own pictures, to sculpt the paper and create a three dimensional scene, or a diarama in a capsized shoebox – like the ones HERE at Art Lessons for Kids. And if a child wants to talk about death, what better opportunity than while creating and expressing? My own daughter’s first experience came with the coverage of Princess Diana’s death. We drew a lot of princesses after that. Once she drew a rectangle around hers, and another preschool mom asked her what the box is for . Olivia informed her, “She’s dead.”

Go to Susanna Hill’s blog for more Perfect Picture Book selections and activities.

25 thoughts on “PPBF: My Father’s Arms are a Boat

  1. It does look remarkable and ut’s not easy to find ones that deal with death. Diana’s passing was the saddest day ever.


  2. I do love this book. Quintessential Scandinavian existential angst. (That’s a mouthful). From the cover, one might expect a different storyline, eh? But for thinking parents this is an unusual and eye-opening book.


  3. Thanks, Julie. The illustrations are truly stunning. European books definitely contain a special something alien to American PBs. This was an inspired choice. I am sure many parents will find it useful.


  4. Julie, thank you so much for introducing me to this stunning book. It is as you say, breathtaking – both art and text. The opening lines and the summary brought me to tears. I will get it at once!


  5. Your website does not like me, Julie! It won’t let me load from Susanna’s linky…and then it doesn’t want me to comment. 😦
    I love this book…yes, the illustration you showed won me over…the bright dash of red is compelling. I will have to try to get this…Yikes…my floors will cave in with the weight of the books I have. 🙂 I agree…I think this is a wonderful book for encouraging kids to draw…perfect summer reading. 🙂


  6. What a unique and unusual book! Those pictures are incredible. Are they pop up pictures or just flat and look 3D? There’s a lot of death talk around here today. We had a good, good dog buddy die this morning. It’s a sad thing. It’s good to talk about it though. I’ll have to check this book out. Thanks.


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