The New York Times Book Review
When a bedtime book reveals its true nature halfway through a story about something other than sleep, children can feel tricked as plot gives way to purpose. But to his credit, Savage nicely patterns Little Tug's bedtime ritual with what has come before: the tall ship tucks him in with a sail, the speedboat hums a lullaby, the ocean liner gives him a hug. Savage's artwork gives the boats just the right combination of realism and personality…With just 100 words, including the title, this book is a good one for last call, as any demand to "read it again" can be easily satisfied.
Echoes of Hardie Gramatky’s 1939 Little Toot can be seen in the pages of this tugboat tale by Savage (Where’s Walrus?). But while Gramatky’s tale chronicled a feckless junior tugboat’s relationships with the ships in New York’s waterways and concluded with his heroic redemption, Savage’s book depicts Little Tug as beloved and helpful from the start. The story has the tempo of a waltz, as readers meet three other ships (a sailboat, a speedboat, and an ocean liner), each of which get into trouble of a sort, and are rescued in turn by Little Tug. “He’s not the biggest boat in the harbor. But when the tall ship is still, and the speedboat’s motor breaks down, and the big ocean liner can’t fit into the harbor, he pulls, he pushes, and guides the boats to safety.” The crisp stencil-style art, in high-contrast industrial blue-grays with brick-red highlights and grainy shading, maintains an even keel. Savage dispenses the action in mild, reassuring doses, shifting from the tugboat’s rescue efforts to a soothing nautical bedtime. Readers who love ships can expect smooth sailing. Ages 2–6. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“Readers who love ships can expect smooth sailing.”Publishers Weekly
"...will appeal to boat-loving toddlers. "Kirkus Reviews
“Petite but powerful, the small red tug feels a sense of accomplishment during the day but still enjoys being pampered at bedtime. Large type, simple sentences, and repetition offer a pleasing story line and showcase the appealing illustrations.”– School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
It is hard to find an absolutely perfect pre-school book but Stephen Savage may have created one. With few words but a strong message, Savage conveys the important job that tugboats perform, pulling and pushing bigger boats on the river. Despite his small size (and adorably eager smile), Little Tug goes about his work with determination and enthusiasm. The drawings, which are certainly the focus of the book, are bold and cleana perfect way for young children to learn to identify sea craft by their shape, size, and purpose. Since the illustrations are graphically bold and clear, the book can also be used as a concept book to help children identify shapes such as circles, squares, and triangles in the composition of each picture. The boats, delightfully, have individual personalities. My personal favorite is a grimacing ocean liner that has just crashed into a dock. Having hit a ferry slip too hard, a time or two, I can identify with the pain-scribbled mouth. At the end of the day, Little Tug gets tired out and the big boats that he has helped tend to him as a parent cares for a child. The pastel shades become nighttime purple and this lovely book becomes the best bedtime story imaginable. Young children will quickly memorize the spare text and "read along" with their adult, every night. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
Graphically spiffy and textually brief, this exploration of an anthropomorphic harbor tugboat's working role tacks on a maudlin shtick in the final quarter. Savage's crisp pictures clearly compare Little Tug's height, speed and length to those of a tall ship, a speedboat and an ocean liner. Despite these obvious shortcomings, Tug helps all three maneuver safely when needed. Young children will likewise navigate through the broadly stylized images of city skyline, water reflections and ships, some of which sport eyes and mouths. An odd divergence, however, appears with the line "What happens when Little Tug tires out?" The story shifts from fact-based narrative to coy bedtime riff, ending with Little Tug being tucked in with a sail from the tall ship, soothed with the speedboat motor's lullaby and receiving, from the big ocean liner, "a great big-- / hug." Though this cute-but-mighty tug's strengths are oddly undercut by the syrupy gear-switch at the end, the bright, attractive pictures will appeal to boat-loving toddlers. (Picture book. 2-4)
School Library Journal
Baby/Toddler—This charming story with its simple text and soothing graphic-style artwork makes a graceful transition from picture book to board book format. Little Tug may not be the tallest, fastest, or biggest boat in the harbor, but he proves his worth in multiple ways, and the other vessels appreciate his efforts. The sweetly personified boats and the message that small can still be mighty is a satisfying one to share over and over again.