Top 100 Picture Books #99: The Maggie B by Irene Haas
If I wished on the North Star, I might wish for the same thing as Margaret – what can beat a cozy ship, complete with delicious meals and company and a pineapple-patterned chair? – Jessalynn Gale
A soothing lullaby of a book, this has been my favorite picture book since I was a little girl. – Jennifer Lasky Russell
I refuse to vote on my own polls. I figure my opinions haven’t any place here (in fact you’ll be able to watch me go mute mute mute when some books I’m particularly strident against make their appearances). So when a book I particularly love makes the list it’s all I can do not to whip out the fireworks. I came in contact with The Maggie B in college when a friend of mine showed me her favorite children’s books (she was also a fan of Brinton Turkle and, fascinatingly, Valentine & Orson). The minute I read it I realized that I wanted to someday have it on hand to read to my own child. Fortunately that won’t be a problem since in spite of its 1975 copyright the book has never been out of print.
The plot of this story is summed up by the Library of Congress like so: “A little girl’s wish to sail for a day on a boat named for her `with someone nice for company’ comes true”. Maggie’s little brother is that “someone nice” and the two of them spend the day on their little boat living the sea life. The boat is fully equipped with an apple, peach and orange tree bearing fruit (and a beautiful toucan). There is an abundance of fresh eggs and milk to be had from various chickens and the goat. Maggie herself fishes and serves up sumptuous meals of lobster and peaches with cinnamon and honey for dessert. The day is simple and homey, the only real source of concern a thunderstorm that crashes and booms towards the end of the day. Even then, Maggie thoughtfully battens down the hatches and plays her fiddle to her brother, tucked snugly in his bed.
It’s not exactly a household name, this book, but those familiar with it or that grew up with it will defend it with their lives. I was happy to see that it does indeed show up on The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children by Eden Ross Lipson. Lipson suggests that “It is very easy to substitute names of real siblings when reading the nicely cadenced text aloud.” Aw.
Please check out this tribute by The Marlowe Bookshop too.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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