All Hands on Deck is a sailing activity book for children, but is badly let down by the quality of the illustrations and the content, says Julia Jones

All Hands on Deck
Lisette Vos
Adlard Coles, £12.99

As a (former) child on a boat, as a mother and a grandmother I’m immediately keen on ways to help children feel involved and informed.

I requested this title with enthusiasm but found it disappointing.

All Hands on Deck originated in the Netherlands – a fact that’s obvious from the illustrations of locks and bridges – but it seems that neither the author nor illustrator are sailors.

Otherwise, how could it be that the illustration of a yacht transiting a lock has all sails set and the wind blowing the burgee the wrong way?

In fact, if some of the illustrations were intended as a warning to show poor practice, they would be quite effective I try not to be a fusspot granny but standing up in a dinghy with unsecured oars and no lifejacket is an absolute No No.

Though the text says children should wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid, none of the drawings include one.

Neither do any of the sailing vessels have sheets or rigging.

Frequently they don’t have tillers or rudders either.

It is patronising to children to assume they will not notice such things.

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If the idea is to get the young crew to correct the illustrator’s errors, it should be more clearly spelled out.

Some of the written information is inadequate or misleading – suggesting that a boat will turn to port or starboard by the direction of the propellor switching from clockwise to anticlockwise, rather than by the movement of the rudder, is simply wrong (unless it’s a misguided attempt to explain propwalk).

As steering with either tiller or wheel is one of the first things many children can be encouraged to understand and enjoy, this poor explanation seems a pity.

The author’s approach does not encourage meaningful hands-on experience (other than, rather bizarrely, scrubbing the decks).

Good seamanship is narrowly defined as collision avoidance. That’s really not enough, even for the youngest children.

As a granny it’s seamanlike behaviour and attitudes that I need my young crew to learn, I’ll take responsibility for collision avoidance – though of course I’m happy for them to use a book like this to understand some principles.

So, although the idea of the book is well-intended, the content and execution lets it down.

It can’t compete with titles in the RYA Go Sailing series (which include activity books) — or some family reading of Swallows and Amazons or Jon Tucker’s Those Kids series.

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