From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2—An unnamed boy, about eight years old, is passionate about boats of all kinds. "The day Mom and Dad went to pick up my new brother, I built a raft." The raft is a collection of junk and spare parts, but it serves as the vehicle for his imaginary adventures of sailing off to Bongadongo. This is where he can get away from Simón, a boy slightly younger than himself. There are two stories here: the protagonist's love of boats and his acceptance of the new family member. Simón wants to be a part of the boat-related activities, but big brother shuts him out. After a squabble, the older boy walks to the river, where a storm comes in and blows everything far and wide. When the weather clears, he hears Simón calling to him about a boat in a tree, an actual seaworthy vessel. This is the turning point in the boys' relationship. By working together, they get the boat down, and big brother finally lets Simón become a part of the action. The two happily sail off to Bongadongo, which Shelley's richly detailed, cartoonlike illustrations depict as a place complete with smoldering volcanoes, pirate ships, mermaids, serpents, and other creatures that live in the imagination of young boys. The art tells the story well through the boys' expressions and body language, and seamlessly blends the real world and the fantasy. This is a unique take on the adoption story.—Ieva Bates, Ann Arbor District Library, MI
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Brief text and fantastical illustrations tell this story about a little boy who learns to accept his newly adopted brother. Fascinated with the sea, the boy dreams of owning a boat and escapes through fantasy games played on homemade ships. His new brother, Simon, who appears to be of kindergarten age, always interferes. "I want out of here!" the boy finally explodes. Then a violent storm blows a small dinghy into a tree, and the boy and his new sibling work together to pull the boat from the branches. Some children may be confused by a few ink-and-watercolor illustrations that overlap real and imagined worlds, and an intriguing series of images in which the boy views a ship in a bottle, and then becomes trapped inside it, may be particularly challenging. The richly detailed vision will engage children, however, while the messages about working through sibling rivalry will hit home with many. One final note: it's nice to see a picture book about adoption in which the new arrival is an older child, rather than a baby. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved