This is the story of Matt the lighthouse keeper, as he waits for the return of his beloved Sailor, who has promised to sail him round the world. Matt’s friends throw him a birthday party, but it’s not quite right without Sailor. Finally, the pair are reunited, and after a night under the stars they make their way down to the boat… Originally published in the Netherlands, it works really well in translation. The illustrations beautifully capture the seaside setting, with muted colours which fit the gentle tone of the book.

What’s good about this book?

It’s a really tender story of longing and anticipation, and a rare example of a picture book depicting a men-loving-men relationship that exists outside of its relation to children (the central character isn’t “Uncle Matt” or “daddy”). It’s not an issue book, the queerness is central to the story but it’s not a source of conflict.

What is less good?

Arguably disappointing use of the word “friends” to describe Matt and Sailor, in the climactic (and clearly super-romantic?) moment where they are reunited.

While the slow pace and softness of this love story might appeal to sentimental adults like myself, I wonder if it might come across as a bit dull to children, particularly younger ones. Seems like a good one-off conversation-starter, but hard to imagine as a bedtime favourite.

I am unsure whether it’s problematic that the reality of Matt and Sailor’s relationship is a secret between the narrator and the audience. Certainly something to discuss with any young readers!

Notes on the illustrator

Ingrid Godon also illustrated (among many others) My Daddy is a Giant, which doesn’t stand out politics-wise (see My Dad is Beautiful by Jessica Spanyol for a better book of this type, in my opinion), but it’s a visually beautiful book that is really easy to get hold of in dual-language form (in many different languages), which is nice.

Good for starting conversations on…