Book of the Month: Sail

We are introduced to our protagonist in Sail, boarding a boat as he prepares himself to take a journey on familiar waters. Sail instantly captures the reader’s attention with its stunning  illustrations and engaging rhyming couplets on each page. Brouwers’ illustrations are so detailed that they bring us into the scene and on the journey itself with our sailing protagonist. Halfway through the picture book, our hero falls overboard and along with him, we are taken underwater, out of our comfort zone and into uncharted territory. As scary as going out of your comfort zone sounds, Brouwers introduces the reader to a world full of colour plus a range of fascinating sea creatures, subtly telling the reader the exciting possibilities that come from ‘going overboard’ and exploring the unknown in life. 

In her own words, Brouwers explains her thought process behind her creativity:
“Going into uncharted territory can add more colour to our lives. In fact, I believe it can be the making of us. The deep, rock bottom illustration with the octopus is dark…rock bottom is by no means a place you want to find yourself, yet there are all these bright, surprising things to discover. I wanted the illustrations in that section to be a surprise too.” Something I particularly liked is the fact that Brouwers leaves the protagonist unnamed, so we can all resonate with and identify ourselves with the message of the story rather than the physical appearance of the protagonist.

This is a beautifully illustrated story for all and as we are all moving on in life, I hope we can remember this message and Brouwers’ words:

“As they say: growth is found at the edge of our comfort zone. Sometimes we need to experience challenging times in order to learn what we are made of, who we are, and ultimately grow.”

Classroom Approaches
Sail could be used in a variety of ways in the classroom. For example, in literacy sessions, children could analyse the double meanings of the protagonist going overboard and explore the wider metaphors behind it. Furthermore, children could attempt writing their own stories exploring their own fears or worries through wider metaphors in the way that Sail does. 

The book can be used in art classes too. Similar to writing their own stories, some children may find it easier to make their own versions of Sail, with a focus on painting/drawing their metaphors instead of writing. 

Children could also try their hand at performing the rhyming couplets in the book in drama classes, or again making their own versions around themes of mental health similar to Sail. 

For more inspiration and themes, Brouwers’ blog on mental health can be checked out here: 

Furthermore, Brouwers herself has explained the importance of the questions at the end of the book and how teachers/parents can kick start a conversation with older children and explore the message: 

  • What are you grateful for?
  • Do you sometimes worry about things?
  • What are the most wonderful things or the most difficult things that have ever happened to you?
  • What did you learn from these experiences?
  • Why is it good to sometimes face difficulty?
  • Who is there to help you steer your boat?


Dorien Brouwers and Sail will be featured in Pop Up KSENT Festival – Autumn 2021.

Get in touch with our education team

Find out more:

Read a sample and buy the book on Pop Up Hub
Learn more about Dorien Brouwers and her other picture books
Sign up to our education newsletter for our latest projects, book recommendations and teaching resources