Lily Leads the Way by Margi Preus,  illustrated by Matt Myers

Lily Leads the Way by Margi Preus,  illustrated by Matt Myers. Candlewick Press, 2022. 9781536214031

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  Lily’s a small sailboat with a tall mast and needs the lift bridge to open so she can go out onto the lake to see the tall ships visiting her harbor. With her white hull, large “eyes” (the windows of her cabin), and painted smile, she’s cute and friendly-looking. But the big boats also need to get out onto the lake and keep pushing ahead of her, each with its own unique loud horn: first an ore boat, then a seagoing vessel, a tugboat, and a coast guard cutter. Finally Lily manages to slip under and greet the beautiful old sailing ships. But when they parade back toward the harbor, the big ships are silent. It’s up to Lily to blast her small horn, “Meee-me! Mee-Me!” and hope that the bridge goes up in time! 

This is a book for young readers who are fascinated with all things nautical. Myers’s stunning oil paintings bring each ship to life and give us closeups of their unique features: smoke stacks on the oar boat, bumpers on the tug, and communications arrays on the cutter. The tall ships are the stars though, with their snapping flags, crisp sails, and even a King Neptune figurehead on the barquentine. Myers’s work is so eye-popping and crisp, so full of texture and depth that it really shows up the flatness of the digital art that’s taking over children’s picture books. Back matter includes information on types of bridges and the location of this unique one (it can be found at the westernmost end of the Great Lakes). Preus also relates her own adventures in a small sailboat with a tall mast and how they inspired Lily’s story.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would make a good read aloud for students ages 4-8 who love boats and adults who want a story to read instead of yet another DK book with pictures of various ships. Storytime might get noisy as you ask students to make the ships sounds along with you! The small but brave Lily makes an appealing heroine and kids will appreciate her perseverance and grit.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: May 22, 2022

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