I’ve decided to start out my blog with posts on my favorite children’s books. Today I’m writing about The Maggie B., by Irene Haas, which has been my favorite picture book since I can remember (see photo).
My copy of The Maggie B. originally belonged to my older sister, Beth. When I found a reprinted edition on Amazon.com a few years ago, I excitedly bought 2 copies – one for me, and one to give to Beth on her birthday. I wrapped her copy and waited expectantly for the big day.
When she opened her present, Beth said, “Hmm…The Maggie B….” and looked at me inquisitively. I don’t think she remembered it at all! And here all along I’d thought this book was just as beloved to her as it was to me.
I love The Maggie B. for its lush illustrations (color alternates with black-and-white) and the lyrical rhythm of the story. It’s about a little girl named Margaret Barnes who wishes on a star one night before bed…and wakes to find she’s the captain of her own ship (the titular Maggie B.) with her brother James (“who was a dear baby”) along for company. They spend an entire day on the Maggie B. and even make it through a scary storm to fall asleep to “nice steady rain [that] made a lullaby sound on the roof of the cabin.”
I imagine that the absence of any adults was part of the book’s attraction when I was little, but this treasure of a book has stood up well over time. I was excited recently to find it listed as an “overlooked gem” in Elizabeth Bird’s Children’s Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career. She writes, “If comfort could be synthesized and pasted between the covers of a book, then what you’d have is Haas and her wonderful tale of a girl, her baby brother, and their ship filled with animals and good things to eat” (63).
So now I have 2 copies of The Maggie B. – the well-loved paperback copy from my childhood, and a nice new hardcover copy. I think I’ll keep them both.