There are a handful of illustrators, most of whom are also authors, who I find enchanting no matter what they do. Polly Dunbar is one of them. Emily Gravett and Sophie Blackall and Gillian Tyler are a few of the others who's work I love. If you aren't familiar with Dunbar's work, check out my review of her last book, Penguin for a full rundown of her other books and more examples of her fantastic illustrations.
Arthur's Dream Boat, inspired by a small boy in the water at Brighton Beach and a far boat on the horizon, is the story of a dream. Arthur wakes up one morning wanting to tell someone about the amazing dream he had the night before. When he first tells his dog, "Last night I had a dream," there is a small, colorful boat on top of his head. As Arthur goes through the morning trying to tell the busy members of his family about his dream, the boat keeps getting bigger and brighter and more elaborate as they neglect him. Finally, when he raises his voice as loud as he can, the family stops and takes notice. Then, Arthur tells them about his dream. The family finds themselves at sea with Arthur, sailing on his dream boat. The final words of the book, "One night Arthur had a dream. And it really was . . . amazing!" are paired with the happy family, pets and all, cozy in the dream boat, sailing off into the setting sun.
Dunbar's book may seem light on text, but it is huge on imagery and imagination. Her illustrations, done in charcoal and watercolors, are full of movement and concentrated bursts of color that help tell the story. I can definitely see Arthur's Dream Boat being the kind of book that will stick in a child's mind well into adulthood and stir up fond memories decades later. I can't wait to see what Polly Dunbar does next!
Here are the lovely endpapers from Arthur's Dream Boat.