When I Wore My Sailor Suit

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Overview

When he puts on his sailor suit, sailor hat, and sailor whistle, the boy in this book is ready for a journey. He imagines himself on a ship, sailing across the sea, in search of treasure. A sailor’s life is dangerous. But a sailor must be brave no matter what happens.

In this charming story about imagination and adventure, told with Uri Shulevitz’s signature playfulness and style, a little boy learns how to be courageous, both on the high seas and at home. The tale is based on a...

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Overview

When he puts on his sailor suit, sailor hat, and sailor whistle, the boy in this book is ready for a journey. He imagines himself on a ship, sailing across the sea, in search of treasure. A sailor’s life is dangerous. But a sailor must be brave no matter what happens.

In this charming story about imagination and adventure, told with Uri Shulevitz’s signature playfulness and style, a little boy learns how to be courageous, both on the high seas and at home. The tale is based on a childhood memory from the time when the author/illustrator and his family lived in Warsaw on the eve of World War II.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A revealing autobiographical glimpse and an excellent insight into the power of children’s fantasies.” —Horn Book

“The child-centered solution to the boy’s problem proves, yet again, that this is the work of a wise and wonderful storyteller.” —School Library Journal

“Shulevitz’s lush transformations of reality into imaginary worlds are seamless and often breathtaking.” —Booklist

“In Shulevitz’s sketchy, intimate watercolors, close walls dissolve from patterned wallpaper to exotic locales and back behind the now-intrepid, now-anxious young explorer as indulgent adults occasionally look in.”—Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this story based on one of the author's childhood memories, the titular suit worn by the boy narrator gives him the courage to embark on a swashbuckling adventure, scaling tall mountains (stairs that lead to a friendly neighbor's apartment), steering a ship through a deadly storm and avoiding the evocatively named Malenostro Malevostro, "pirate of one hundred seas!" The fantasy comes to an abrupt halt when a portrait on the wall spooks the boy, but eventually he realizes that's he's in control of his own imagination. "You can't leave this wall, you can't leave this room," he says to the painting, "but I can go far away on an exciting journey." This is not stellar Shulevitz: the imaginary world never coalesces into visual excitement, and the emotional resonance falls short of How I Learned Geography. More important, there's no historical framing (think of William Steig's When Everyone Wore a Hat) to nudge readers toward empathy, helping them understand how an outfit that may look pretty lame to contemporary eyes was actually the equivalent of their own Transformers or ninja costume. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Shulevitz takes us back to his childhood, when he dons a sailor suit to sail away on magical imaginary adventures. Wished a good journey by his mother, he climbs the mountainous stairs to the apartment of the Mintz family. There on their dresser is the model ship he needs for his journey. From a calm sea the brave sailor sails through a terrible storm. Landing on what seems to be a sunny, peaceful island, he has to hide from a terrifying pirate. After monkeys drive the pirate away, our hero finds a treasure map left behind. But before he can use it, he is back at the Mintzes' being watched by an evil-looking man in a picture. Intimidated, he goes home. After some days, he gathers the courage to confront the picture. He takes his ship and is off on another adventure. Painted naturalistic scenes set on white backgrounds with text like captions tell the visual story. We see our young narrator's sunny island with inventive "luxurious vegetation" and the stereotypical peg-legged pirate complete with eye patch. The man in the painting is equally frightening. The settings are just natural enough to allow for the adventures. The final scene aboard the ship with its sail filled with wind predicts the treasure hunt to come. Note the contrasting jacket and cover. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—Shulevitz's latest picture book relays an early childhood memory of visiting a neighbor's apartment, clad in sailor attire, to play with a treasured model ship. As the room's edge transforms into an ocean and island paradise, readers feel transported. The author's understanding of what play looks like on the inside and the phenomena that disrupt such concentration is evident when the boy, mid-fantasy, feels he's being watched and the imaginary world grows hazy. He can't reenter until he confronts the problem in the real room: the dark portrait of a stern man that seems to be staring at him. Shulevitz combines child-size sentences with words that stretch and please: the boy's provisions are packed in a "valise," the climb up the apartment steps/cliff is "arduous," he sails "valiantly." The artist's mastery of the medium produces both warm, dappled interiors and Old Master severity, with convincing fades into the fantastic. The child-centered solution to the boy's problem proves, yet again, that this is the work of a wise and wonderful storyteller.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
The child in this brief episode may dress in a sailor suit and live in quaintly appointed apartment surroundings, but his lively imagination strikes a universal chord. Setting sail in a ship that starts out as a model, the young narrator lands on a remote isle for a glimpse of Malenostro Malevostro the "pirate of one hundred seas!" The adventure comes to a sudden end, though, when the lad catches sight of a glowering portrait on the wall and scurries out of the room-but then regroups and later returns to taunt the thickly mustached figure: "You can't leave this wall, / you can't leave this room, / but I can go far away on an exciting journey." In Shulevitz's sketchy, intimate watercolors, close walls dissolve from patterned wallpaper to exotic locales and back behind the now-intrepid, now-anxious young explorer as indulgent adults occasionally look in. Three helpful monkeys on the island constitute the closest approach to Wild Things here, but that may suit children who prefer a quieter style of play than wild rumpuses. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374347499
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Uri Shulevitz is a Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator and author. He was born in Warsaw, Poland, on February 27, 1935. He began drawing at the age of three and, unlike many children, never stopped. The Warsaw blitz occurred when he was four years old, and the Shulevitz family fled. For eight years they were wanderers, arriving, eventually, in Paris in 1947. There Shulevitz developed an enthusiasm for French comic books, and soon he and a friend started making their own. At thirteen, Shulevitz won first prize in an all-elementary-school drawing competition in Paris's 20th district.

 

In 1949, the family moved to Israel, where Shulevitz worked a variety of jobs: an apprentice at a rubber-stamp shop, a carpenter, and a dog-license clerk at Tel Aviv City Hall. He studied at the Teachers' Institute in Tel Aviv, where he took courses in literature, anatomy, and biology, and also studied at the Art Institute of Tel Aviv. At fifteen, he was the youngest to exhibit in a group drawing show at the Tel Aviv Museum.

 

At 24 he moved to New York City, where he studied painting at Brooklyn Museum Art School and drew illustrations for a publisher of Hebrew books. One day while talking on the telephone, he noticed that his doodles had a fresh and spontaneous look—different from his previous illustrations. This discovery was the beginning of Uri's new approach to his illustrations for The Moon in My Room, his first book, published in 1963. Since then he was written and illustrated many celebrated children’s books. He won the Caldecott Medal for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, written by Arthur Ransome. He has also earned three Caldecott Honors, for The Treasure, Snow and How I Learned Geography. His other books include One Monday Morning, Dawn, So Sleepy Story,and many others. He also wrote the instructional guide Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books. He lives in New York City.

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Reading Group Guide

Author/illustrator Uri Shulevitz spent the early years of his life, from the age of four, wandering

with his family, in search of a home. From war-torn Warsaw, Poland to the Central Asian city of

Turkestan in the Soviet Union to Paris, France to Tel Aviv, Israel, and finally to his permanent

home in New York City.  

Likewise, many of the characters in his books travel too. The Fool of the World sets off in search of

a flying ship. The young boy in How I Learned Geography uses a map and his imagination to travel

the world. Benjamin of Tudela journeys for fourteen years to the far reaches of the known world

and back again to Spain. In The Treasure, Isaac travels great distances to the Royal Palace in search

of a treasure that he finally finds under his own stove. And the young hero of When I Wore My

Sailor Suit sets off on an imaginary journey to distant lands as the captain of a sailing ship on both

calm and storm tossed seas.

Opportunities abound for social studies curriculum connections as well as language arts (reading,

writing, and research) and visual art connections. Invite your students to join you on a journey of

fun, learning, and imagination!

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2010

    Beautifully Written & Illustrated

    My five year old son Noah really enjoyed this book. It allowed us to go on the imaginative journey together with the sailor boy to an island where he saw a pirate. This story gives children a context to understand overcoming their fears while at the same time expanding their vocabulary. We would definitely recommend this book to you!

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