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

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  407 ratings  ·  127 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
8th out of 72 books — 15 voters
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Picture Books About Fathers
94th out of 107 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

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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.
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
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
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
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
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
Whitney Rachel
This book is so European. SO SCANDINAVIAN.

I really enjoyed this book for numerous reasons. Firstly, the story is haunting and beautiful. I love that this little child still knows safety and security despite dealing with the loss of his mother. I thought the way the topic of death was brought up was well done. The language is fantastic! I wonder though how much was lost in translation?

The illustrations are very cool; I enjoyed the mixed media.
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
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.
Cara Byrne
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
April Helms
This was...OK. The story itself is sweet, if a bit meandering. The language is too complex for preschool but the story itself is a bit simple and whitewashed for gradeschool. Still, the image of the father and child consoling each other over the loss of the mother is tender and gentle. The illustration technique- 3D cutouts- was neat. But the illustrations didn't always match with the text, and almost seemed a part of a different story. This could have worked if that second story was followed th ...more
Karen Arendt
Absolutely beautiful story about a boy and his father at night. The mother has died at some point previously. The story isn't about the mother's death, per se, but suggests it in the story line. the boy can't sleep and goes to the living room to find dad. He asks dad questions about the birds and the foxes and where they sleep, then asks if mom is sleeping too. The cut out illustrations are sparse, dark yet eloquent. The pictures evoke the feeling of loss and isolation- of the fox, the bird, but ...more
The Styling Librarian
My Father’s Arms Are A Boat by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvind Torseter - so glad I had time to read this with my son, touching, gorgeous, beautiful… Loved every minute. I was distracted by the simple beauty of the illustrations and had to go back and reread the book with just the illustrations to make sure I took enough time to appreciate every aspect I could of this book. *Warning, this is a story of loss and love, I was relieved that my son didn’t pick up on the loss as much as he has ...more
Sandi Rossman
I reviewed this book for the picture book soak (picture book assignment).

The little boy in this book seeks comfort in the arms of his father when he can't sleep. In typical childlike fashion, he asks lots of questions about the world around him and instinctively trusts the answers his father provides.

I think the cut-out images in this book stand in stark opposition to the words. From both the title and the story, I want pictures that comfort the reader just as the dad tries to comfort the little
Feb 11, 2014 Dolly rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
Shelves: 2014, childrens, norway, death
This is a very melancholy tale about a young boy and his father mourning the loss of the boy's mother. The story is very simple and poetic and we were about halfway through the book before our girls said, "Oh, I get it."

The translation is good, although I would caution parents that this book is more appropriate for older children or perhaps for children who have experience the death of someone close. The cut-paper illustrations are terrific and really capture the essence of the tale. It's a ver
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