Picture Book Review: Lily Leads the Way

Lily Leads the Way by Margi Preus

Lily Leads the Way
by Margi Preus, Matt Myers 

5 out of 5 stars

Lily is a little sailboat who is always pushed aside by the bigger cargo ships. She must pass under a drawbridge to leave the harbor and welcome a fleet of old-fashioned sailing ships who are coming to visit, but she can’t get through with all the bigger boats hogging the waterways. When she is finally able to leave the harbor, she meets the grand old sailing ships and escorts them back towards the drawbridge. It is up to Lily to toot her little horn to signal the drawbridge to open up for the ships to pass through, but will the drawbridge hear her little horn?

I loved this cute book so much! There are so many layers to this story as Lily proves that she may be little, but she is worth listening to and she is a capable leader. I love the positive messages about being tenacious and polite and brave. Lily has a lot of obstacles to overcome, but she continues with grace and kindness even when others are rude.

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful! You really get a feeling of the energy of the waves and the action of the traffic in and out of the harbor. I loved the design for the ships that anthropomorphizes them. The “facial” expressions for Lily really bring such emotion into the story! Each page in the book has beautiful background scenery.

My only issue with this book is that sometimes the flags seem to be flying the opposite way from the wind! The sails look like they are going one way, and the flags are going the other way. Haha! It made me wonder if maybe the flags are on wires so that they stick out stiffly even if there is no wind. That might explain why the flags look like they are flying against the wind.

The most amazing thing about this book are the secret messages hidden in the illustrations. I began to notice that in each page, Lily is flying a different flag on her mast. I looked up the meaning of these flags in the international code of signals for ships at sea. Each one reflects something that Lily is experiencing in the story.

(I have done the research so that you don’t have to, and here are all the flags and their meanings within the story!)

She begins with the “K” flag, meaning “I wish to communicate with you.” She is trying to reach out to the drawbridge to tell them to lift the bridge so she can pass through.

When a big cargo boat comes alongside, she flies the “I” flag, meaning “I am altering my course to port.” She is trying to tell the bigger boat to make room. She flies the “R” flag for “going alongside.” and she tries to squeeze in together, but the cargo boat pushes her aside anyway. As she is tossed by the bigger boat’s massive wake, she flies the “D” flag which means “Keep clear. I am maneuvering with difficulty.”

Lily approaches the bridge again but the bridge is down, and she has to stay put, flying the “M” flag meaning, “My vessel is stopped.”

More vessels barge past Lily and she flies the “T” flag to say “Keep clear of me,” and the “U” flag to say, “You are running into danger.” But they ignore her and run right past, almost knocking her down.

Poor Lily is battered by the waves, and flies the “W” flag for “I require medical assistance,” and she really DOES look sick, poor thing!

Finally, Lily is able to sneak under the bridge at the last minute, flying a triumphant “C” flag which means “Yes”!

When Lily sights the grand old ships, she flies the “K” flag again, signaling that she “wishes to communicate” with them. Lily proudly sails alongside them with another triumphant “C” flag. Yes!

As they approach the drawbridge together, Lily sails out in the front and flies the “K” flag once more to ask to “communicate” with the drawbridge.
The drawbridge doesn’t acknowledge Lily, and she changes her flag to the “M” flag when her “vessel is stopped” in front of the drawbridge. She sails in circles, tooting her little horn, begging them to open before the bigger sailing ships arrive.

When the drawbridge finally opens, Lily leads the way for the ships and flies a “P” flag which is a “general call” signal to tell everyone to come in.

On the last page, Lily flies the “H” flag, which signals “I have a pilot onboard.” But in this case, Lily herself IS the pilot, bringing the entire fleet safely into harbor.

Lily, you beautiful darling, you! What a ship! I actually started crying when I realized what the last flag meant. Lily is so inspiring and wonderful. You keep sailing along, you sweet little ship! You can do it!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.

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