Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins often writes about journeys and the sheer physical pleasure of being on the move. Because I am a non-swimmer who loves to walk, I have always been drawn to his poem “Walking Across the Atlantic.” (And if such a thing were possible, you can be sure I’d be in Scotland tomorrow morning.)
Collins returns to ocean travel in Voyage, a poem in the guise of a children’s picture book. In it, a dark-haired little boy clambers into a boat at the edge of the sea. As he pushes off from the sandy, summery beach “the boat becomes a book which the boy begins to read.”
He reads while gliding over the waves and under the vast cloud-hued sky of Karen Romagna’s illustrations until–in a nod to poet Wallace Stevens–“the boy becomes the book.” He does battle with a cutlass-wielding pirate, stopping only when a serene breeze dissolves both pirate and weapons.
The floating book becomes a boy-sized pirate ship, sailing on into the quiet evening with “…a moon at the top of the page/which looks down with such loving amusement on the night sea/on the boat, the book, and the boy.” On the final page we find the boy pulling his boat safely ashore. Across from him we see an open book with Collins’ 100 word poem spread across its pages.
Voyage is a peaceful story with just the right amount of adventure to be satisfying to young listeners. Its cadences and artwork make a comforting bedtime story, a journey into reading you and your child will want to take again and again.