Reviews /

The Baker by the Sea

Authored by Paula White
Illustrated by Paula White
Published by Templar Publishing

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Panoramic double page spreads entice the reader into this story of a boy who lives in a fishing village who, watching the fishermen leave every day, thinks that when he is older, he will be a fisherman. His father is the village baker, baking bread, buns and biscuits for all the people who keep the fishing trade flourishing – the net makers, boat builders, girls who gut the fish and, of course, the fishermen themselves – and the boy wonders why his father is not a fisherman like the others.  By the end of the book, he knows.

But this book is far more than a chronicle of a boy’s ambitions. In a delicate and perfectly balanced combination of word and image, Paula White celebrates and reveres a long-forgotten way of life. There is no mention of the date except in the notes on the cover flaps, but her evocative, dreamy style makes it clear that this is a picture of a busy fishing village and its inhabitants from some time ago. In mostly greys with a tinge of blue or yellow every now and then, the images take the reader from wide-focus depictions of hills, fields and the seashore into bustling streets with their little shops to the harbour front where all the craftspeople who make it possible for the fishermen to go to sea, ply their trades. Floating above the roofs of the village into the boy’s bedroom, where he is watching the boats from his window and waiting for them to return, wafts of smoke lead into the warmth of the bakery and out towards the café and harbour where people are comforted and fed by the baker’s goods. As a tribute to her own grandfather, Paula White includes a recipe for hot coconut buns at the back of the book.

The artistry and scope of the images, balanced by spare, understated and poetic language, make this a book to return to again and again, both to relish the delicate beauty of the images and to appreciate the way Paula White captures a sense of community, family and pride in this village where the land meets the sea. Teachers will find the historical and biographical notes on the cover flaps a good basis for looking at both local and industrial history and considering how communities change over time. It would also be a good starting point for researching family histories, asking older relatives and friends about their memories of working and community life.