Arthur’s Dream Boat, unsurprisingly for a book aimed at young children, a fairly simple story. The first half of the book has Arthur trying to tell his family about a dream he’s just had, but none of them will listen. The second half concerns the dream itself, with Arthur off on his dream boat to rescue his family from the sea. So, nothing too out of the ordinary story-wise, but there are a number of things which make Arthur’s Dream Boat stand out from the mass of children’s books available.
Firstly, it’s beautifully illustrated. My daugher is too young, at 14 months, to follow a story, but she loves the pictures, and I can only assume this is why she is constantly pulling Arthur’s Dream Boat out of the pile to be read to her. The illustrations also root the story in our modern world. Most children’s books we own are either classics from many years past, or about animals or other creatures. It’s a pleasant change to read one set in the 21st century human world, with laptops, mobile phones et al.
The level of detail in the illustrations is also superb. As you re-read the book, you start to notice that the boat and other images in Arthur’s dream are formed from little details from the first half of the book, set in Arthur’s home. This perfectly illustrates how dreams are formed from the little details of our day to day lives, combined in unusual ways. The more you read the book, the more of these details you spot, making re-reading a pleasure rather than a chore (extremely rare amongst kids’ books).
Finally, and of most relevance to this blog, is the fact that Arthur’s Dream Boat was turned into a musical theatre show, so the book comes with a CD of songs from the show. The songs are by none other than Tom Gray of the band Gomez, so bring a little late nineties nostalgia for the indie parents amongst us. They’re also charming, jaunty songs in their own right, with “Hey!” being a particular favourite (even if I was slightly disappointed to find it wasn’t a cover of the Pixies song of the same name). Gray does a great job on putting together 9 songs from such a short, text-light book.
It’s always hard to tell with kids’ books, but I see Arthur’s Dream Boat as a potential future classic.
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