The first book I read this year is a picture book that my wife got me for Christmas. Hope at Sea: An Adventure Story by Daniel Miyares. Thank you, Laura!
Hope at Sea is about a young girl named Hope who doesn’t just want to hear her father’s exciting sea stories when he returns from a voyage, she wants to experience adventure for herself. Her papa is building a new ship and as it is ready to set sail, Hope becomes a stow away.
If her papa is angry about the situation, it doesn’t last long. He quickly hugs her and the illustrations turn to what Hope learns about life as a sailor, which means hard work, even for the smallest of hands. Papa teaches her about navigating with a sextant as they head for the West Indies and Brazil. I was surprised at what happens during their return voyage, and the ending is not one I would have guessed. It’s emotional and twisty.
The illustrations really make this book. They are rich in color and texture, celebrating the 19th century ship in all its glory. Sailing tools are detailed and the illustrations make history and the action of the story come alive.
One of my favorite illustrations is a two page spread that shows the rear of the ship in the cold gray Atlantic waters and the front in the blue tropics. What a clever way to show the passage of time and travel.
The story does include racial diversity as represented by the sailors aboard ship. While papa is white, Hope and mama seem to have some racial ambiguity.
Although Hope is obviously an adventurous girl who writes a journal with wonderful illustrations of her own, traditional gender roles stay in place. Wives and children wait on shore for their men folk to return from sea, albeit doing something very important. When Hope returns home, she’s depicted hanging laundry with her mom. In the last scene, it looks like Hope is wearing pants, so that’s something.
Of course the focus is Hope, a young girl who takes matters into her own hands and goes on a risky adventure. Her dad obviously loves her and there is never any talk of her “being a girl.” I would have slept with this book under my pillow when I was a kid.
I love this picture book and want to frame some of the illustrations (but would never cut it up!). It brings the history of the wooden ship era to life — the allure of the sea, the hard work of sailors’ lives, merchant trade, and the very real dangers of the ocean. It was a nice reminder that storms happen and sometimes you need to pivot in their aftermath.
Title: Hope at Sea: An Adventure Story
Author: Daniel Miyares
Publisher: Anne Schwartz Books
Pub date: October 19, 2021
Affiliate purchase link: https://bit.ly/HopeAtSea