a list of…five keen adventures messing about in boats

Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, written and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

“Little Tim lived in a house by the sea.  He wanted very much to be a sailor.”

Well.  You just know that a young boy with the itch to voyage on the high seas is going to find his way into all sorts of jolly adventures!  Little Tim does not disappoint.

Educated in all manner of knots and ships and sea lore by the salty old fellows on the beach and by his dear friend, Captain McFee, Tim is dismayed that his mother and father still find him far too young for the sailing life.  Running away is his only hope.  So…one day…Tim stows away on board ship and finds himself at sea at last!

Tim’s voyage begins well enough with some heavy duty chores and interesting odd jobs.  However, they eventually sail into a terrible storm!  Gale-force winds, seasickness, crashing, sinking, a large dose of fear, and then, phew! a rescue just in the nick of time!  You may think this would scare the thirst for sailing right out of Tim, but you would be wrong-o!  Tim is a brave boy and is eager to join the captain on his next voyage.

The Little Tim books are all-time classics, first published between 1936-1977.  This is the very first in the series.  If your kids haven’t met Tim, and his compatriots Charlotte, Ginger, Towser, et al., you really should remedy that!  Edward Ardizzone’s iconic pen-and-ink and watercolor artwork have won him an outstanding, well-loved status and the some of the highest awards within the British literary world.

The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer

The Mellops are an adventurous family of pigs, who have made a previous appearance in Orange Marmalade.  There are Father and Mother Mellop, and four boys:  Felix, Isidor, Casimir, and Ferdinand.  I do love the Mellops.

On this occasion, Mr. Mellop discovers an old, dusty trunk in the attic, filled with curious and exotic trinkets such as a mysterious letter.  The letter is addressed to “my dear and sweet Mathilda” and details an altercation with pirates in the year 1765, the sinking of their gold-filled ship, and the exact compass points where the ship lies, unaltered, beneath the ocean deeps.  This is too good to pass up!

The Mellop men venture off to find the treasure.  Their hair-raising adventures include an underwater forest and a lovely merpig, narrow escapes and an old treasure map, a deserted island and a welcome rescue.  And…do they find the treasure?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.  As always with the Mellops, we wind up with a lovely plum cake .  To be sure.

Eccentric fun,  full of all the right ingredients of an adventure story, as well as such loveable characters.  You can’t miss with the Mellops!

The Washout, by Carol Carrick, pictures by Donald Carrick

Christopher and his mom have just arrived at their summer house in the deep, quiet northwoods, when a terrific storm wipes out their power and telephone (okay, this is written in 1978), and sends a swollen creek rushing across their road, creating a treacherous gully.  There’s nothing to do but wait for road crews to come through and repair the damage so that workers can remedy the downed lines.

Waiting around, however, isn’t on Christopher’s activity list.  He wants to explore.  Mom says yes, provided he stays away from fallen wires and the fast-flowing brook.  Fair enough.  But she didn’t say anything about the lake.  So when Christopher finds a rowboat cast up along shore, he hops in.  The plan:  row across the lake, get to the general store in town, get some groceries and let people know they need a repair crew.  Not a bad plan for a very young boy.  But of course, things don’t go exactly according to plan.

This story is the proud account of a young boy who accomplishes what he sets out to do despite recklessness and difficulty.  It is essentially page after page of Dangerous and Currently Banned Undertakings — meandering around in the woods alone, rowing a boat without a life jacket all by himself, hitch-hiking…yup, all that and more.  And I love it.  I’m not advocating utter foolhardiness, but in these days of over-the-top caution, it’s a nice push to the other side of the spectrum.  My kids loved this book, and lived to tell about it. 

Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor, written and illustrated by Mervyn Peake

Captain Slaughterboard is a squinty-eyed, gun-toting, devil-may-care, pirate.  He runs his ship, the Black Tiger, with such a cruel hand that he has only five highly-unusual shipmates left. 

One day, the Captain and his men come upon an exotic new land.  It’s pink.  And populated with bizarre, purple creatures such as the Guggaflop and the Dignipomp.  Except, there is one fellow who is bright, lemon yellow, and his name is Yellow Creature. 

Captain Slaughterboard takes the Yellow Creature away with him in his pirate ship, and — surprise! — treats him with tremendous kindness.  They eat together, dance together, and together watch the sparkling blue sea.  Eventually, the Captain realizes he’s had about enough of battles and the like, and the two of them sail back to the pink island with its waterfalls and lagoons, caves and mountains, and settle down to their  jolly, if quirky, island life.

This tremendous swashbuckler was first published in 1939 by Mervyn Peake, a celebrated British novelist, poet, playwright, painter and illustrator.  You might recognize his well-known illustrations of Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island and other classic works.  For this edition, the only change to the original was to tastefully, subtly tint the fantastic drawings.  Great fun!

The Maggie B., written and illustrated by Irene Haas

Margaret Barnstable is a girl with a wish:  she wishes for her very own ship, named after her, to sail across the seas wild and free, with a special someone for company. 

And ta da!  Margaret’s wish comes true!  She awakes one morning, the captain of a snug vessel, The Maggie B., with her darling baby brother James as the specially nice company.

Margaret sets out to spend one delightful day on this delicious little boat, with its charming, cozy cabin, and  lush, miniature farm complete with orange and peach trees and toucan.   She tidies with a joyful hustle bustle.  She sings sea songs.  She spreads bright picnic lunches under the apple tree, and handily zips up yummy sea stew and cinnamon-peach muffins.  She paints, fiddles, and plays finger-games with sweet baby James, and what’s more, when a storm suddenly whips up, she battens down the hatches like nobody’s business!

This charming story has been a family favorite and stock babysitting take-along for decades in our household.  Pleasing in every way, with warm, sweet, happy illustrations, it’s a dream-come-true adventure for even the youngest and tamest of listeners!

Here are Amazon links to all these stories.  As an Amazon Associate, I receive a small bit from the sales of anything purchased after clicking through on one of my links.  Thanks to those who do!
Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain
The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure
The Washout
Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor
The Maggie B