A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Models effective ways to deal with loss: connect with loved ones, create things. Since the story takes place over a year, from one birthday to the next, there's the implicit message that grief takes time.
When we feel loss, it's helpful to connect with loved ones. Though we miss those who are gone, there are still people who love us. Creative activity helps. Adjustment to loss and grief takes time.
Positive Role Models
The boy deals with his loss by making things. He tries to connect with his dad by sending him the boats. The mom tenderly cares for the boy. The boy recognizes his mom's care.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Jessixa Bagley's Boats for Papa is a touching treatment of loss. Buckley, a beaver, lives cozily with his mom by the sea, but both miss the boy's dad. Since it's never directly stated where Papa has gone, this book is appropriate for a variety of absences, but the strength of the sadness and permanence of the loss suggest he's died. Buckley makes boats for Papa and sets them in the sea, and after a year passes, he decides to make a boat for his mom, who's cared for him throughout. The treatment is gentle, with the death implied, and the relationship between Mama and Buckley is warm, connected, and healing.
Is It Any Good?
In this tender, understated tale about loss, Bagley never spells out what happened to Papa, but the quiet sadness felt by both Buckley and Mama suggests he's died. Buckley and Mama have a loving life together by the sea, and Buckley busies himself collecting driftwood, which he carves into elaborate boats with notes to Papa. Mama's sad, too, stepping outside to gaze at the night sea, but she creates a loving home for Buckley. Healing comes from their connection and from creation; Buckley throws himself into planning and crafting intricate driftwood boats and looks happiest when working.
The quiet accumulation of detail makes this a powerful, moving tale: The family pictures on the wall include ones with Papa, and the endpaper shows Buckley adding a boat to the display of all he's made, a time line of his grief. Young readers may be confused about exactly what happened to Papa, but they'll apply the story to their own tender situations.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.