We are never more grateful for good health than when it is gone. We wake up day after day, not thinking about how wonderful it is to not have a fever, chills, aches, sniffles, or a cough. When any of those symptoms strike, we realize our mistake. We are doubly miserable.
We want to wave a magic wand and be better. We need help. And Then Came Hope (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, May 4, 2021) written and illustrated by Stephen Savage offers readers a look at the arrival of help in the form of a very special boat. This boat, like others who offer assistance to those who need it the most, supplies support, security, and the appropriate cure.
in the harbor
weren't feeling well.
Barge is the victim of a runaway spool of cable. Submarine comes to the surface feeling as though it might be at one of the Poles. Ferry has a high temperature. Aircraft Carrier has trouble breathing without coughing.
Even the smallest among these boats has problems. Dory, a tiny sailboat, has the sniffles. The smile she usually carries is gone. What are hurting boats supposed to do? They signal with a big
S O S.
A large gleaming white boat called Hope, with tugs on either side, glides into the harbor. In that moment when she announces her intentions to Barge, Submarine, Ferry, Aircraft Carrier and Dory, they know, with a sure sense of calm, they will be fine.
For each ailment, treatment is administered. Four boats sail from the harbor. One stays; the last to get care. Dory may be small, but she is given a reminder, a token, of the truest definition of hope.
The words in this book written by Stephen Savage indicate his knowledge of his intended audience. They also show his skill as a wordsmith, reaching out to a much broader readership through symbolism. The verbs (illnesses and healing) attached to each vessel are alliterative providing a rhythm to the narrative. Like the best of stories, the final two sentences give readers exactly what they need. Here is another sentence.
Then Submarine started shivering.
Complementary colors, golden yellow and pale orange and purple and lavender, fill the rays extending from Hope on the front and the back of the matching and open dust jacket and book case. The expression on Hope's face is one of compassion as she enters the harbor on the front. As she heads out to sea, on the back of the jacket and case, her stern to us, her look is one of happy determination.
On the first page of the opening endpapers and the last page of the closing endpapers is a pale blue sky with seven seagulls grouped together in flight. Stephen Savage makes use of every single page with the title page opposite the first set and an author's note opposite the closing set. On the title page, Hope is heading out to sea about to go under the large suspension bridge. Other smaller boats cross the ripples of blue-hued water. A large half sun sits on the horizon with a lighter blue and lavender sky around and above it.
Each double-page picture rendered
using digital techniques
invites readers into the story. We are first greeted with a panoramic scene, left to right, of the land, docks, and buildings, framing the harbor with the bridge and horizon small in the distance at the top of the image. As we are introduced to each of the vessels and their conditions, we are brought close to them. Details focusing on their problems heighten our connection to them. Shiver lines border Submarine, a thermometer registering heat is stuck in Ferry's mouth, and a sick Aircraft Carrier is hunched as it coughs into the water.
Even though the colors are bold in the first images, after Hope enters the harbor the shades shift. They are lighter and soothing, leaning toward healing and warmth. The illustration sizes change to draw our attention to the delivery of remedies. Readers will enjoy the facial features on all the boats.
One of my many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture. From the gutter on the left, Hope's bow (face) is enlarged, covering a bit more than half the page. She is smiling with her eyes closed as she comforts Submarine. Submarine is next to (in front of) her facing in the opposite direction. Submarine is also smiling with its eyes closed, now warm under the cover of a blanket. The water is a light blue. The background with a few buildings is several shades of dark peach. This is pure contentment.
This book, And Then Came Hope written and illustrated by Stephen Savage, is designed for younger readers, but will resonate with readers of all ages. It builds toward the five concluding words we all long to hear. The author's note at the end titled The Real S. S. Hope gives us a bit of history and refers us to the Project Hope website. You'll want to place this book in your professional collections, have a copy for your personal bookshelves, and share this often with others.
To learn more about Stephen Savage and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name. Stephen Savage has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At Penguin Random House you can view interior illustrations.
Author Stephen Savage and Project HOPE's Grace Duggan join us to discuss Stephen's new book and have a conversation about child wellness during the pandemic. "And Then Came Hope" was inspired by Project HOPE's own S. S. HOPE, the first peacetime hospital ship. Stay tuned afterward as Stephen and Grace respond to your questions and comments in the chat. Special thanks to Holiday House Books for Young People!