Ocean Liners: Crossing and Cruising the Seven Seas by Karl Zimmermann ($14)
As a child, I used to browse my local public libraries, looking for any books that I could find on cruise ships and ocean-liner history. I quickly found that very few books about ships were written for kids.
Recently, however, maritime historian and author Karl Zimmermann has published the latest in his series of books on transportation -- aimed at children, ages 9 and older. While previous books have focused on trains and steamboats, this one -- Ocean Liners: Crossing and Cruising the Seven Seas tells the story of ocean travel in 48 pages, starting with sail-powered vessels in the 1840's and working right up to Queen Mary 2. He also relates how the cruise era began and includes a chapter about life onboard past liners, versus today's cruise ships.
Through mutual friends and our shared passion for ocean liners, I've known Zimmermann since I was in college, and when I worked as an officer for Cunard, I sailed with him many times onboard the QM2. In 48 pages, Zimmermann writes with the same friendly tone that he uses in natural conversation, as he mixes shipboard history with tales of life onboard.
Perhaps the best parts of Zimmermann's book are the numerous, original photographs, taken by the author. From engineers, working in the steam engine room of the S.S. Independence, to Disney Magic, sailing out of a Caribbean port, his pictures present complete images of great ships that will, hopefully, spark interest in young children perusing their local libraries. There's even a photo of yours truly, sitting in the Chart Room onboard QM2.
--by Ben Lyons, Cruise Critic contributor
Welcome Aboard! Traveling on an Ocean Liner by Barbara A. Huff ($26.40); (U.K. Prices Vary)
Specifically written for young people, this slender volume is interesting on several levels and a very enjoyable and informative way to introduce children to ocean travel. Using a Queen Elizabeth 2 trans-Atlantic crossing as both setting and demonstration, the book also intersperses chapters covering the history of ocean travel, aspects of shipboard life, and the changes in ships and journeys. It addresses possible problems and questions in an intelligent, well-informed and careful fashion. As an added feature, there is an excellent bibliography, a small selection of liner-focused movies, and a list of maritime museums and groups. It even ends with a section on "Land Cruising" -- ideas on how to extend the shipboard experience (or how to prepare for it). Good job!
A fun story for younger kids, Peter the Cruise Ship -- written by the captain of Holland America's Noordam -- follows Peter's adventures as he sails all over the world. It's chock full of tales of derring-do -- Peter rescues Rusty, a cargo ship; sails through a wild sea; and, oops, hits a whale on the head with his anchor when he calls at a tropical port. The picture book also depicts Peter as he merely cruises along, carrying happy passengers from port to port. Reports Cruise Critic's Caitlin Tucker, a special youth contributor, "Peter the Cruise Ship would be good for little kids, maybe 4 or 5 years old. It would be good because Peter is a cruise ship that can talk, and he has a lot of friends. It teaches little kids how you can make friends onboard. The pictures were good. The map, which shows where Peter sails, is educational; it shows Africa, Europe, Asia, the world!"
This is the first in a series of picture books aimed at cruising's younger set; Mateboer's next story will feature a voyage to Alaska.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor
Bear's Boat by Patricia Jenson and Lisa Ann Marsoli ($1.31)
Raising our son onboard a cruise ship was not as easy as most people would think. Living both on land and on sea can be confusing from a child's viewpoint. Bear's Boat quickly became a favorite of ours because of the easy style it presented to him in grasping the concept of his sea life and of his daddy's work. And while your kids don't need to be "liveaboards" like ours was -- just liking to cruise will get them interested -- it's a delightful book for kids in the three- to seven-year-old age range.
The authors cleverly created an interactive Captain Bear Puppet and four short story books depicting the activity encounters that are available onboard. The book can be set up as a stage play in order to act out the excursions they will experience. The stories are, as a result, participatory (we loved "Friends at Sea," "The Big Treasure Hunt," "Splish Splash" and "Fishing Fun"). You'll find that the stories will increase their curiosity, prepare them for adventure and allow them to giggle with glee.
Bear's Boat will effortlessly satisfy your need to help your child come to positive terms of his soon-to-be fun-filled boat experience (and you'll have a blast in the meantime).
I came across Pigs Ahoy! almost by accident, and while it is specifically written for young children, I must admit I enjoyed it ... a lot. Written in sort of (meaning not exact) rhyming couplets, it recounts what happens when a "normal" cruise passenger finds himself sharing his cabin with a group of "oinkers" -- and what a mischievous and unrestrained lot they are. Their antics onboard and most especially their behavior at a rather catastrophic Captain's Dinner are recounted with near-glee, and their dismissal from the ship is certainly not the end of the tale. Aside from being cleverly conceived and written, this little book is well-drawn and visually arresting with its vivid colors and contrasts. It's almost a shame to waste it on children.
An ideal book for kid cruisers (grades four through six), Baby-sitters on Board follows the Pike family, who invites Stacey and Mary Anne as mother's helpers on a four-night cruise to the Bahamas (and a three-night visit to Disney World). For realists, we'll admit we're thinking Disney Wonder even though the ship is called Ocean Princess. Throughout their "babysitters vacation" we get to experience Stacey and Mary Anne's cruise from the unique vantage point of their charges. The kids found magic on the ship: charging spa treatments to mom and dad's room, spotting celebrities and finding stowaways onboard, and a pirate's map on one of Nassau's beaches! And though I'm a tad older than the intended audience, the book still made me laugh out loud. Kids will too.
--by Erica Sapio
Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise by Kotzwinkle, Murray, Gundy & Coleman ($16.97); (£7.87)
There is no good and valid reason for Walter the Farting Dog to have been written, published, or sold -- except that it is horribly funny. Like the earlier Walter stories, it is an amazing exercise in bad taste (or at least bad smell).
Within the somewhat enclosed spaces of a cruise ship, Walter's scent-sational uniqueness becomes quickly evident. He is at first confined (no, it's not like Norovirus) in a storage room for stinky cheese, and then banished to a towed lifeboat. But, in the end (so to speak), his special quality resolves a crisis and saves the ship. And all that in 32 well-written and neatly illustrated pages -- oh, that and the fact that you'll be laughing so hard you'll probably wet yourself.
Written for 4- to 8-year-olds, it is an excellent example of "poo-poo" humor for all ages. It worked for me ... and I'm 59.