Kimmel, E.A. (1996). Billy Lazroe and the King of the Sea: A tale of the Northwest. New York: Browndeer Press.
This picturebook is a retelling of the Oregon folktale of the sailor Billy Lazroe. Billy, who more or less grew up on the sea, always kept his home in Oregon in mind as he traveled, singing a song of the Willamette River. While on leave at home, Billy encounters Davy Jones in the Willamette River. Davy wants Billy to come play for him in the sea. Billy makes excuses to join Davy now, but before he leaves, Davy says that one day Billy will join him and the other sailors in the bottom of the sea and leaves Billy the advance payment of a sack filled with pearls. He uses the pearls to purchase his own ship and enjoys life as much as possible, waiting until he's called to perform at the bottom of the ocean.
This story captures the sense and setting of the Northwest well, making references to the food and culture and creating similes to "a kettle of chowder."
This story may be too text-heavy for some readers, lending itself to be used as a read aloud. Many of the illustrations, while impressive paintings, are done, for the most part, in darker hues.
Activities to Do with the Book:
This would be a good picturebook to share during a folklore unit to draw attention to the fact that folklore is present in our own American culture and not just in other parts of the world.
This book could also be used with a student who likes pirates and could be used to extend their interest to sailors and the ocean at large.
This book could be paired with other stories about Davy Jones and folktales about water. Another possible pair would be among myths that involve living people going to a place of death or an underworld. On that note, if a teacher were looking to reinforce an idea of tolerance, he or she could reinforce the fact that people from all walks of life and cultures can be found in Davy Jones's Locker.
"One rainy morning in April 1885, Billy Lazroe was born on a houseboat anchored in the Willamette River, a mile up from Portland, Oregon. Billy's father had been first mate on a clipper ship and his mother came from a family of seafarers. So it was only natural that Billy Lazroe arrived in the world with salt water in his veins."
"It was no wonder that Billy Lazroe grew up to be a sailor."
"The more Billy saw of death, the more he cherished life, and as much as he loved the sea, he feared the blue-green water that one day would become his grave."
"Play for my shipmates, Billy, and for all the brave sailors who have gone to their rest at the bottom of the sea."