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My Father's Arms Are a Boat
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My Father's Arms Are a Boat

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  486 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
It's quieter than it's ever been. Unable to sleep, a young boy climbs into his father's arms. Feeling the warmth and closeness of his father, he begins to ask questions about the birds, the foxes, and whether his mom will ever wake up. They go outside under the starry sky. Loss and love are as present as the white spruces, while the father's clear answers and assurances ca ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Enchanted Lion Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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2014 Award Winners
13th out of 72 books — 15 voters
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Quiet Picture Books
6th out of 26 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,019)
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Jubilation Lee
Jesus Christ, Scandinavian people, give a girl some warning would you?

Because when I see this cover


Had I been given a few more hints—say, with an alternative cover design

then it wouldn’t have been such a shock for the story to actually be very much OH NO GRIEF AND DEATH AND MOURNING AND FATHERS WITHOUT WIVES AND SONS WITHOUT MOTHERS OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!


This book is tragically beautiful, and the illustrations—done in paper cut-outs—were amazing.
Mar 27, 2016 Kaitlin rated it liked it
This book is an illustrated and translated children's book which deals with grief and how to continue with life afterwards. I have to say that the illustrations within this book are fabulous with stunning 3-d cut-out photographs of miniature furniture and backgrounds elements combined with line drawing and text. Honestly I feel like it's often hard to judge a children's work on story alone, becuase the pictures and visuals are so integral to the child's reading experience, and I loved examining ...more
Jan 24, 2013 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
There are some picture books that you read the first few lines and you realize you are somewhere new and unknown. This is that sort of book. It is the story of a young boy who is unable to fall asleep. His father is there, sitting in the living room by the fire. The boy returns to his father and climbs onto his lap. His father talks about cutting down a big spruce together the next day. The boy asks about the red birds that they left bread for. He worries about the fox stealing their bread too. ...more
It's children's books like this that make me see how little I know about children's literature in its broadest sense and also how powerfully images and texts can work together to explore delicate yet deeply universal and powerful topics. Once again it is to the Dutch that we turn for topics that are rarely dealt with in the UK with such honesty and in such a tone that respects and honours the younger reader.
I have never seen a picturebook like this before. It comprises solely of hand-drawn imag
Jan 13, 2014 Marilyn rated it it was amazing
This hauntingly stunning book takes on a very difficult subject matter that many families find hard to understand or even talk about because the pain is so deep. A little grieving boy, unable to settle down to sleep seeks out his dad, crawls up in his arms and together they talk about why mom is not there any more and why she will never wake up and come home. The little boy asks many questions about the animals outside and he worries if the birds will get the bread he left them. By the end of th ...more
David Schaafsma
Jun 05, 2015 David Schaafsma rated it it was amazing
Stein Erik Lunde is the author of this book, which won awards in Norway (and other places in Europe) in 2009. It was translated in English in 2013 and now comes to me. Worth the wait, I'll say. I read it because from the cover I saw it was illustrated by Ovind Torseter, whose silent book The Hole I loved a couple years ago. This has a very simple, spare story of a winter's night of grief for a man and his young son, who have lost their wife and mother. The art, done with cut-outs and muted color ...more
Barb Middleton
Nov 03, 2014 Barb Middleton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book, grief
Picture book on grief that captures a child and father's sadness over the death of their mother. The haunting mood and wonderful word choices made me unable to put it down. The illustrations are a mix of cutouts and 3-dimensional buildings and furniture that reminds me of my architect father and his models. The snow, clogs, and pine forest remind me of Norway. I can't wait to give this to our counselors who have asked me many times over the years for good picture books on grief.
Ashlee Christians
While reading this book I had a text-to-self connection involving one of my closests friends and her mother. She recently passed from cancer and her and her father have become extremely close because of her mother's passing. This story reminded me of my friend and how she was feeling after her mother was gone-unsure if everything was going to be okay.

This book was culturally specific to the Norwegian culture for many reasons. The father used a sheep-skin coat and wore clogs which are common in
My Father’s Arms are a Boat begins with a boy unable to sleep, which is hardly strange. Nor is it, at first, remarkable that his father, still dressed for the day, is sitting alone in the living room. The boy is worried about the fox stealing bread left out for the bird, which is hardly a strange preoccupation of a restless child, and it is precious how the father would reassure his son about the goings on of the world outside at nighttime (dark time).

A subtle and yet consciously painful awarene
Oct 26, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This is a powerful story that addresses themes of loss and love. The author, Stein Erik Lunde, and illustrator Oyvind Torseter, use simple language and illustrations to let us peek into an intimate evening between a man and his young son. The story is set in Norway and the team has masterfully used paper sculpture and pen and ink drawings to set the scene and illustrate the story. Upon looking at the pictures, one immediately senses of sadness in this story especially in the illustrations showin ...more
Chris Austin
Feb 25, 2016 Chris Austin rated it really liked it
Took me a few attempts to read through it to attempt to understand the message in the book.
It is a wonderful story about the relationship between a father and son and how both are dealing with the loss or absence of the wife/ mother.
The hand drawn pictures cut out and put together to create the illustrations are brilliant. The strict use of mute colours apart from the red of the fire, fox, birds and swing indicate the importance of these objects or creatures. Also how colour becomes more promin
Apr 10, 2014 J.P. rated it really liked it
Very haunting as many things translated from Norwegian tend to be. The story of a child and father dealing with a mother's death.

Basically, if you get the reference, I feel like I just read a children's book written by the band Fever Ray but maybe a tad more sedate, because a children's book written by Fever Ray would involve a homeless, strangely dressed person in the woods who was actually an old god who'd bring the mother back from the land of the dead and turn her into a red bird - because t
In my country (Australia), quiet and sad books for children generally feature destruction of the natural environment rather than the demise of a person. Jenny Angel is the only Australian picture book that deals with death directly, that I can recall off the top of my head, which is why I have been keen to read this a while; it is just so unusual. I really like the thinking here and the absolutely supportive relationship between the boy and his father. It's my belief that conversations with chi ...more
Mar 10, 2015 Julianne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s
This book is tragic and heartwarming all at once. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked this one up off the shelf at the library. The artwork in this book is beautiful and is what caught my eye. Love and loss permeate each page. I don't think I'll look at redbirds the same way anymore.
May 13, 2016 Kim rated it really liked it
Okay. Well. Now all I want to do is go home and hold my baby and ugly cry.

Ouch, book. Ouch. My feelings.
Mar 29, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Multicultural Picture Book #3
Copyright: 2012
Genre: Realistic Fiction. The characters and the story are fictional, but the content provides a realistic children’s view of loss, grief, and healing.
Target Audience: Primary
Text-to-Text: I think this is the first children’s book I have ever read that relates to loss and grief. However, the cover of the red fox leaping through the snow reminded me of the cover of “The Mitten” by Jan Brett. The two books are, of course, extremely different. That being
Cara Byrne
Aug 03, 2015 Cara Byrne rated it it was amazing
Familiar with illustrator Torseter's _The Hole_, I was shocked when reading this moving, thematically depressing book about a young boy who has lost his mother. The humor, play and ridiculousness of _The Hole_ is completely absent; instead, Torseter's cut paper style perfectly suits the melancholy and intense grief of the poetic prose. It's one of those picture books that sticks with you - and each time I read it, I cry.

The book begins: "My dad isn't listening to the radio./He's sitting in the
Shichen Wang
Jul 24, 2015 Shichen Wang rated it it was amazing
The book is so beautiful and enchating, the texts are like a poem, I especially love the description where the son says that his father's eyes are black and deep as the night. I can almost see into the father's eyes to his sorrowful heart. I was firstly attracted by the book's title, I wonder what does it mean, how someone's arms are like a boat. We usually say someone's arms as a horbor to describe the feelings of safty, but I have never seen a phrase like this. After reading the book, I unders ...more
Rebecca Hansen
Apr 22, 2015 Rebecca Hansen rated it really liked it
Text to text: The illustrations in this book reminded me of the book "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats. The illustrations were also unlike anything I'd ever seen before on some other pages. The story itself was also unlike anything else I had ever read before. However, the part where the boy and his dad go outside to look at the stars reminded me of The Lion King when Mufasa and Simba go to the field and look at the stars and talk about life.

Text to self: While I read this book, I was not enti
Shelby Summerville
The book My Father's Arm are a Boat was written by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvind Torseter and translated from Norwegian by Kari Dickson. This book is about a young boy and his father, who spend some time together during a winter night. The young boy is trying to go to bed but can't sleep, so he goes back into the living room with his father. He crawls up into his father's lap, and the father asks if he'd like to cut down the big spruce tree tomorrow, the young boy says yes. The youn ...more
Stefanie Skrdla
Text to World
This book deals with the very sensitive issue of losing a parent. One would think that this would be a difficult topic to put into words for a children's book, especially one that is being translated into different languages and reaching different cultures. However, what I believe Stein Erik Lunde and Oyvind Torseter so beautifully convey is that loss is the same regardless of what country you live in. The pain of losing a loved one leaves you lonely and makes you sad in any culture
Jennifer Bane
Text to self: In this story the little boy lives with his father and one night he can’t sleep so he curls up with his dad and asks many questions throughout the night. At one point they go outside to see the stars and they both see a shooting star and get to make a wish. When I was little I loved to curl up with my dad, and I loved to look at the stars and see of I could find a shooting star to make a wish.
Text to text: This book has some similarities to the book Ball by Mary Sullivan because Ba
Kelsey Kalinski
This book was really beautifully illustrated. It was originally written in Norwegian. It's about a boy who can't sleep so he stays up in the living room with his father and they talk about his mother's death and the world outside. I would connect this book to the popular Disney movie, Frozen. In Frozen, the two main characters' parents die and in the beginning of the movie especially, we see Elsa and Ana deal with grieving over their parent's death. Also in many other Disney movies; like Cindere ...more
Mar 16, 2014 Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Mildred L. Batchelder Honor

Lunde, S. E. (2012). My father's arms are a boat (K. Dickson, Trans., O. Torseter, Illustrator). New York, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.

A young boy tells the tale of one night—one very quiet night. He can’t sleep, and his father comforts him. The hole left by the mother’s passing overshadows everything, and father and son cope by clinging to old ways. Torseter’s unusual cutout illustrations lend dimension to the page, and the mostly mon
Definitely more than just a picture book. This is a piece of art- the story is subtle, lyrical, aching at the beginning which then moves into hopeful. The illustrations are composed of cut outs and line drawings with cold open lonely spaces and sharp edges, and a spot of red from the tree swing, the fox, the birds' chests. The voice is of the little boy who cannot sleep. His dad cradles him like a boat and after talking about the bread for the birds and the fox hunting at night and mom who will ...more
Jun 27, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
What a stark, haunting, sweetly heartbreaking story! There is so much sadness and love in this book, part of me wants to throw it across the room and part of me wants to share it with everyone. The perfect example of saying so much with very few words. What is it about Nordic people and their ability to show warmth in such starkness?
Jun 13, 2014 Anabelle rated it it was ok
Shelves: multicultural
For ‘My Father’s Arms Are a Boat’ I chose to do a text to self connection. I chose this because there are nights when my son can’t fall asleep so he asks me to hold him. I love when he asks me this because I know once he’s older, he won’t want me to hug him while he falls asleep. So I am enjoying all of it while it lasts. When I hug him and rock him, sometimes I will sing to him. I will pray to him so he can sleep peacefully. Sometimes he asks me questions about many different things in life and ...more
Jun 02, 2014 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: international
Since this is an international book, the cover and title have been altered thus providing the reader with an initial impression that is not accurate. The book was actually a very sad story about a boy who lost his mother and he and his father are trying to cope. The inclusion of the birds, the fox, and the ill grandmother make the story complex and difficult to understand on the first read through. The illustrations don't always seem to match the text, but are made of paper cutouts which is a di ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Well, this was an odd book. I sensed right from the beginning that it was a sad book, from the quiet tone of the text, the dark colors in the illustrations, and the father's slumped posture and dejected look. As the book progressed that undertone of sadness never let up, even though the father was trying to reassure his son, to let him know that everything will go on as before. The title comes from something the boy thinks about his father toward the end of the book. I suppose it means that the ...more
alison beaudette
Mar 04, 2014 alison beaudette rated it it was amazing
Although the illustrations tell an alluring and beautiful story alone, this is a poignant and artistically written introduction to death and the new, unfamiliar thoughts and feelings experienced during grieving for children, something I find extremely hard to achieve. I would recommend this book to any family, parent and child alike, that find themselves unable to explain the complexity that is the loss of a loved one and the way life continues forward, regardless of the thoughts that envelope a ...more
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