YELLOW KAYAK by Nina Laden & Illus. Melissa Castrillon

Beautifully satisfying. That would be my best two word description for Yellow Kayak, by Nina Laden and illustrated by Melissa Castrillon. This book came across my instagram feed a while ago and it quickly became the subject for my next book hunt. I’m very happy to say that this book exceeded my hopes.

Yellow Kayak is one of those books that you finish reading with a satisfactory smile. It’s just the right balance of so many little details.

Like other books, I feel the title and cover is where it starts. Yellow Kayak. At first it seems a rather simple title. It’s only two words. It doesn’t really set anything big up for you, but it feels right. It blends and balances perfectly with the cover illustration and design, and we have a feeling that this isn’t just a story about a kayak, it’s about more. There’s a lot to see, and they even have foil stamped into the illustration, but it’s not loud. Everything feels measured. They create intrigue, and we can’t wait to explore it.

Yellow Kayak is a story is told in the form of a poem. A poem that is so beautifully written, every single word feels as though it was hand picked, and there were no other options. What an amazing lesson in the skill of saying so much, so beautifully, with so little.

Melissa’s illustrations build into the text with such symmetry that it almost feels like they spilled out onto the page as Nina was writing them. There is so much to wonder at, so much to take in, and yet you don’t feel overwhelmed visually. I found everything strangely soothing. Each page is filled with dreamlike scenes that unfold in a such a gentle way, that nothing felt shocking, over the top, or out of place. I remember reading it and not questioning once at why there was a giraffe in the boat with the child. Everything just works.

I would highly recommend Yellow Kayak to anyone. One of my challenges I’m taking from this book is that I’ll be taking a second look at my writing and illustrating and trying to honestly ask: is there anything being over-stated unnecessarily? I feel as though I’ll have this one off my shelf quite a lot as I study and seek to try to comprehend the “how” of what Nina and Melissa have created here – and to just take this journey again and again.


Special bonus: The under jacket case cover!


Take care!

Mike Boldt

Mike Boldt is an author and illustrator from Alberta, Canada. With more than 18 books in the wild, he's authored titles such as A TIGER TAIL and ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT FLUFFY (Simon and Schuster). He's also the illustrator of Dev Petty's I DON'T WANT TO BE A FROG & I DON'T WANT TO BE BIG & THERE'S NOTHING TO DO (Doubleday). You can learn more about Mike at


  1. What a gorgeous find! I will def be adding this to my collection, it’s a beauty.

  2. I reread the post over twice so I could continue to feel the words. Can’t wait to read more of Yellow Kayak.
    I must admit to smiling while reading the words…”each word seemed hand pick and there not other choice.” Well, isn’t that the description of the perfect Picture Book!!!

  3. What a gorgeous book. And I love the brevity of the rhyme. I look forward to checking it out. Thanks, Mike!

  4. This preview gave me happy goosebumps! Can’t wait to read this beauty!

  5. So lovely!

  6. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

  7. This looks like a wonderful book! Thanks for the preview!

  8. This has been on my library list. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  9. I love the artwork in this book!

  10. What a beautiful book–illustrations and words. I can’t wait to get it.

  11. What harmony! Thanks for giving us a sneak peek, Mike.

  12. This looks lovely! I can’t wait to read!

  13. A perfect example of : WOW!
    Thank you for sharing this.

  14. Kathleen Mazurowski

    Besides a great book review for a reader, you gave a helpful review for a writer and illustrator. Thank you! I can’t wait to read Yellow Kayak.

  15. Wow! I was drawn to the illustrations as if I was 7 years old again. Stunning, and yes, very satisfying. I must have this book!

  16. Patricia A. Miller

    Will have to get this for my granddaughter (of course I’ll study it first!

  17. So beautiful! Thanks for sharing it with us. I have a feeling a copy has to live with me, too.

  18. I’m going to look for this one! What beautiful text and illustrations. Thanks for sharing , Mike.

  19. This is gorgeous. I cant wait to see it in person.

  20. It’s already on order. Can’t wait to study it. Thanks for sharing.

  21. This book is such a delight! Words and illustrations in such harmony.

  22. Thanks for sharing. I love the sparsity of the words.

  23. I could pore over these beautiful illustrations all day! Thank you for bringing this gem to our attention.

  24. To me the illustrations have a nostalgic feel, a style that takes me back to that of the picture books I studied in my Children’s Literature class in college all those years ago. Yet the text of rhyming couplets has a more contemporary feel. That’s not a criticism, but it does mean I will be tracking down a copy to study how the two work together.😃


    Exactly the kind of book I would’ve jumped right into when I was a kid, exploring every little detail. Beautiful illustrations!

  26. Gorgeous!!! Gorgeous!!!! Gorgeous!!!! I am off to get this one. What a fun book to illustrate—-So beautifully done. Thanks, Mike!

  27. I love how studying other people’s books can help us to improve our own writing. Great post!

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