Mavis the tugboat might be old, but she can still haul things like she used to. In this heart-warming picture book, Mavis shows a fleet of bigger, newer tugs just how valuable she is. As part of her tugboat series, author Julie-Ann Crossley retools the real-life story of a tug and its pilot that stopped a runaway floating boardwalk from slamming into Australia’s Gateway Bridge.
Mavis, a little tug with wide eyes and expressive eyelashes, gets teased by the other tugs in the harbor because she’s older and smaller. Then one day a flood in the Brisbane River gives her the chance to show how tenacious she is.
That morning, Mavis senses “in her hull” that something is wrong. Her tug master Doug looks worried and tells Mavis she’ll have to save a bridge. A bridge? Tugboats don’t move bridges. As Doug steers Mavis out of the wharf, she sees that the river has overflowed its banks and a boardwalk has broken loose. Will Mavis have the strength to intercept it and guide it between the bridge’s pylons so it won’t damage the structure?
Crossley’s idea of turning this actual rescue into a story of an old tugboat that wouldn’t be kept down is charming. Sometimes her writing sings, as when she describes Mavis feeling danger “in her hull.” But there aren’t enough engaging details, and the writing at times is wordy and repetitive. Also, the book’s illustrations lack the distinctive, artful, imaginative appeal of those in popular children’s tugboat books.
Although the angle is refreshing (many books focus on young toy tugs, not aging real boats), the story isn’t particularly creative. The author might consider editing it into a tighter, more playful story, using more unique images to achieve wider appeal.
BlueInk Heads Up: The author notes that half of the profits from the sale of the book will go to victims of water-based disasters and the tug crews who saved them.