A Kittery Kayaker

Bull, Webster.  The Kittery Kayaker (Little Limmericks). Illustrated by Jacqueline Decker. Beverly, MA: Commonwealth Editions, 2007. Print.

Above image from https://www.amazon.com/Kittery-Kayaker-Little-Limericks-Webster/dp/1933212365

The quirky inhabitants of Maine share their adventures through fun, snappy limmericks in Webster Bull’s The Kittery Kayaker. 

The book offers a tour around the state’s diverse geography, from the southern coast to the central forests, and introduces readers to fisherfolk and a camper, mountaineer, tourist, skier, and lumberjack, to name a few. Each spread offers one five-line limmerick in which we meet one or two Mainers, situate them in a particular part of the state, and learn a bit about them (and in turn about that part of the state). It gets very  local (“A girl from Township 7, Range 11/ Climbed Mt. Katahdin with her good friend Kevin” and “He would paddle all day/ From the Nubble, they say/ To the light way Down East at West Quoddy”) as well as speaks generally to seasonal life in Maine (“Spring begins at ice out/ When the snow in my yard turns to mud”). It also contains a rhyme to help remember the rivers of Maine. If you’re from Maine or familiar with the state, it’s very exciting to identify known locations– and if you’re not, this book just begs a visit to an atlas or Google Maps… or to Maine.

Limmericks, with their short format and predictable rhythm and rhyme scheme, are perfect for children, easily read and even easily memorized. When the rhyme is taken along with the fantastic illustrations, the book comes alive– the characters in the text become anthropomorphic otters, foxes, bears, chipmunks, beavers, moose, porcupines, frogs, whales and puffins– all native animals of Maine. Again, they provide a fun education to the fauna of the state, while adding to the text’s interest. The illustrations are loaded with color and interest, and the print is large and easily read. Lots of white space surround the text blocks, which are set apart from the drawings for ease of reading.

Kittery Kayaker is full of jokes that make adults chuckle (is that a bit of class conflict I detect between a lobsterman and a yacht owner?) and goofy characters that keep younger audiences entertained and reading on. While it could be read silently, the book is a blast to read aloud– the fun of limmericks is in sharing them, of course, and this offers a nice introduction to verse and to limmericks in particular.

The Adventures of King Arthur and his Knights

Malory, Thomas. The Adventures of King Arthur and his Knights. Adapted by Anne Rooney. New York: Sandy Creek, 2015.

Above image from https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-story-of-king-arthur-and-his-knights-sir-thomas-malory/1126093658

References to and adaptations of Thomas Malory’s legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are ubiquitous in English-speaking world– they are found in movies, television shows, and even in other books. For children, these stories of kings, queens, princesses, battles, bravery and magic have kindled the imagination since they were created in the early 15th century. This new illustrated edition, adapted for younger audiences by Anne Rooney, is an excellent introduction to Mallory’s work.

The Rooney adaptation gives readers a brief introduction, stating in simple terms that “If he is brave, good, strong, and makes the right choices, the adventure is a success. If he is cowardly, if he cheats, or if he is rude, the adventure goes badly.” It includes the birth of Arthur and Merlin’s interception, the acquisition of Excalibur, and the stories of Lancelot, Galahad, Bors, and Gawain. Much of the original text is there, including not just the love, bravery, and gallantry but jealousy, cowardice, and betrayal. There is mention of death, too. But these are dealt with matter of factly rather than gratuitously (or even romantically), with respect to the original but an eye to a younger audience.

Illustrations are on the right hand side of the spread, and are done beautifully, depicting characters emotionally and realistically. They do a fine job in supporting the writing on the verso.

The stories of King Arthur and his knights sell themselves. They are timeless and iconic, full of humanity at its best and worst. This Illustrated Classics version is an excellent copy for slightly older children to read on their own– the prose is clear, the font is readable, and the typeset is comfortably large.  It’s divided into short sections rather than chapters, of one or two text pages apiece. And the hard-cover edition is sure to attract children looking for more adult-type books. But it’s also a fun read-aloud for slightly younger children who like a good adventure story.