Mentor Text Monday: Boats for Papa

Writing for Children Blog
March 18, 2016

What writers and illustrators can learn from Boats for Papa.


How to…

*infuse a meaningful, subtle message in an underlying way

*rely on animal characters to soften a deep topic

*utilize third person point of view for a timeless storytelling quality

*draw the reader in with a featured relationship and a charming, quaint setting

*make you care about the characters right away

*feature a character that takes creative steps and action on his own

*form an emotional bond between the reader and the character

*use a secondary character to add to the emotional impact


In this touching tale, we get a glimpse into the quiet life of Buckley and his mama. They clearly have each other throughout the entire story and seem content enough in their isolation. But something is missing. Papa. The topic of loss is a difficult one to deal with for anyone, but especially children. Boats for Papa approaches the topic with heart and strong emotional ties. It gently suggests that some things are too big to handle all by ourselves, a message that is sometimes missed in the picture books we see in today’s market. I appreciate being part of Buckley’s journey and witnessing the model that he and his mother set. The watercolor and tea-stained look in the illustrations leave a water-washed effect. This is perfect for the seaside setting and, for me, adds a layer of emotion.  Watermarks could also be from teardrops.


Carrie Charley Brownisthe founder and co-coordinator of ReFoReMo, or Reading forResearchMonth, a research challenge and blog focused on mentor texts forpicturebook writers. She eats, sleeps, and breathes KidLit as a picturebookwriter, CYBILS panelist, and Regional Advisor for SCBWI NorthTexas.

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