Chidren’s Book Review: “Little Boat” is a story of bravery and confidence

[ 1 ] August 19, 2010 |

Reviewed by Anika Denise

“The ocean is a big place, and I am just a little boat,” begins Thomas Docherty’s tale of a tiny boat making its way through a vast ocean.

From the start, it’s clear that the little tugboat’s journey is meant to parallel a young child’s experiences in the big wide world, but Docherty makes the connections in such a sweet and subtle way, children will find themselves simply enjoying the ride while subconsciously relating to the story’s overarching metaphor.

The text is rhythmic, yet spare, with short descriptive phrases. “The sea is always changing, and full of dangers, but I sail on,” says the little boat while skirting the edges of an ominous whirlpool.

Despite “terrible storms, rolling waves, and treacherous rocks,” the tiny boat seems to truly enjoy the adventure, and before long, befriends a whale, octopus, dolphins, and a pair of seagulls.

Docherty cleverly plays with scale–making the tiny tugboat appear miniscule in a sea of blue during the scary parts–and larger when the little boat is traversing a changing seascape accompanied by its ocean pals.

In the end, the boat has traveled quite a long way, past penguins on floating icebergs, and still–in a spirit similar to “The Little Engine That Could,” or “Tuggy the Tugboat”–our hero presses on.

What sets this story apart, however, is that its protagonist, the little boat, seems to have a healthy does of confidence from the get-go. There’s no “I think I can,” in this tugboat’s universe. On the contrary, the little boat declares: “Full Steam ahead, to the edge of the world… because no ocean is too big for a little boat like me.”

Way to go, little boat. Rock on.

Anika Denise is the author of “Pigs Love Potatoes” and the forthcoming “Bella And Stella Come Home.”  She lives in Barrington, RI with her husband, Christopher — a children’s book illustrator — and their two daughters, ages 8 and 5.  Anika is also the host of Thursday morning story hours at Barrington Books.  You can read more of her children’s book reviews and story hour suggestions at and at  For information on her books, visit

Category: baby, books / stories, kids, preschool

Anika Denise

about the author ()

ANIKA DENISE is a children's book author and poet. Her books include PIGS LOVE POTATOES and BELLA AND STELLA COME HOME, both of which were illustrated by her husband, Christopher Denise. Anika's next picture book BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA'S will be released in Fall, 2014. She lives with her husband, three daughters and their pet frog "Mr. Greenbumps" in Barrington, Rhode Island. When not reading or writing, she can often be found hosting a tea party for her imaginary friends, baking cookies or strolling the beach near her home, thinking up ideas for new stories. To learn more about Anika's books, visit her website at

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  1. Margaret says:

    This sounds like a good one. And my son is especially interested in tugs because of the new “tugs” exhibit at mystic seaport. Thanks!

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