Gene: Close your eyes.
Sarah: Can I touch the book? Oh, it’s huge!
Tugboats Illustrated: History, Technology, Seamanship by Paul Farrell. W.W. Norton, 2016. 192 pages. 9780393069310.
Gene: Paul Farrell is an architect who loves himself some tugboats. It took him 25 years to write this book. Look at that first drawing of a tugboat across from the introduction.
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Gene: There’s something about the way an architect draws that’s very exact, it’s kind of the essence of cartooning in this case, and it’s charming. It’s got a Thomas the Tank Engine quality to me.
Sarah: And tugboats look so squat in the water, but he’s showing the whole underneath.
Gene: This is the page where I thought, “This is the book for Sarah.” He considers the curves, the lines of a tugboat, and there are callouts with information about it. You can open this book to any page and find a photo or a design-oriented drawing which shows you how an architect sees things, which is different from how everyone else sees things.
Sarah: And since I’m not an architect I’d be thinking about the history of them.
Gene: You’re looking at a photo of classic steam tugboats.
Sarah: My parents, when they took us out of school to go on vacations, they would promise to do educational things to make up for missing class. We went to a lot of steam museums.
Gene: Then this is the book for you. Look at that — there’s a cutaway of how a diesel engine and how it works. My daughter asked me how a motor turns gas into making the car move, and I had to explain. This would have made that so much easier. This covers from the beginning of tugboats up to now.
Sarah: Woah. The pivoting turning. That’s cool.
Gene: This is how tugboats move.
Sarah: “Classic ship handling methods” — I like that.
Gene: Isn’t it making you giddy? You could just booktalk the hell out of this. I don’t know how, but you would get teens interested in tugboats somehow.
Sarah: Yes. Assuming I can’t find the one kid who has been obsessed with tugboats since he was little.
Gene: My challenge to you is I want you to take this book and make the perfect Sarah Hunt booktalk for middle schoolers.
Sarah: What training do you need to be a captain? Just own a boat?
Gene: I’m sure he explains. It’s okay that I’m wowed by nonfiction but still don’t read it, right? This is my problem.
Sarah: Oooh! Garbage barge!
Gene: Kinda disgusting. Look at this callout: “In praise of complex shapes.”
Sarah: That’s where a lot of these art books lose me. The book I read about wax anatomical dissection models, there was a lot on the glory and the horror and the ….yeah, great. Show me more wax body parts. Show me more tugboats.
Gene: There are more tugboats, don’t worry.
Sarah: I just want tugboats, is that so wrong. Ooooh. Chain steamers!
Gene: Are you sold on this book? Are you ready to make an ultimate booktalk for it?
Sarah: I’m taking it. But it might be one of those “I know three people who want to read this book” book talks.