For this book, Jacopo Ghisoni, an illustrator and street artist, chose to use a pseudonym that can be translated as ‘stereotype’, but this book is certainly not typical. With glorious double page spreads, some large pictures of ships and others packed with smaller images, the artist uses a restricted palette of blues, reds and browns, with occasional touches of other colours, to create an integrated and witty exploration of all sorts of boats. The pages are packed with information about the relative sizes of different boats (a fishing boat = roughly 25m or two lorries) and the names of all the parts of a boat (it’s not often you come across ‘lateen sail’ or ‘lug sail’). There are sections on the largest boats in the world, and the smallest; undersea vessels; the different kinds of fishing boats and the fish they catch; boats that have buildings on them – in Russia there are floating churches that are still in use; the history of boats as far back as the from the 8th century BCE; the arrival of steam power; pirates – both buccaneers and radio pirate ships; the use of ships to transport people who are seeking new countries to live in; and boats that people live on today.
There’s much to interest readers from 7 years upwards and prompt investigation and research, like where Phoenicia is in modern geography and what a dromon was – and much much more. One of the charms of this encyclopaedic look at boats is the detail and quirkiness Luogo Comune brings to the illustrations and the text, translated by Catherine Bruzzone, is clear and accessible. Let’s hope there will be more informative books by this author soon.
Ideally, Big Book of Boats would be used as a reference for teachers. It would be somewhere they can go to find activities to do with individual children or small groups if they show that they need some extra help in a certain area. The book seems to be aimed more at parents though, rather than schools, so it could be that teachers use this resource in parent workshops.
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