What’s all the paperboat stuff about? Or: Living with a Playful Heart.

Starlight Sailor, Barefoot Books


Of late I have been playing with paperboats. I have been playing with paperboats so much that people have begun to ask me, “what’s with all the paperboats?”

Here is the answer.

Some time ago I worked on a book with James Mayhew, for Barefoot Books. A simple story, beautifully told by James about a child slipping into sleep and dreaming. It was a while ago but my recollections of how it began are these. James had written a text and Barefoot were interested but wanted Nicolette Coceci to illustrate it. She was busy and I was glad, because the text seemed to have so much potential and I wanted it. So I asked and was given, and then my difficulty began. The boy has a boat. Every time I tried to draw a boat it came out looking like Where the Wild Things Are.

Early work


Sometimes it is difficult to ease your way into a new book. Starlight is the hardest book I have done, or at least was, until I found the key.



There were sketches, so many, and paintings and worryings and fear and frustrations….

playingatknightsandkings thedragonscave frightenedrabbit


And then I realised that I just couldn’t do it. I had no idea how to draw the boat, what it looked like. So I phoned James and apologized, I emailed Barefoot and said sorry and went to bed feeling defeated, miserable.

At 4 am I woke up. I remembered being very small and making paperboats. I got up, made hot chocolate and sat and googled ‘How to Make a PaperBoat’ and with a cat on my knee at 4 in the morning I began to make paperboats.



I called James and Barefoot and told them I wanted another 24 hours. And then I got on and worked on the book.

I wouldn’t say that it all came together easy after that. This was, for many reasons, one of the most difficult books that I worked on. The book had its own blog at Starlight Sailor, where people could follow the progress.




childboat touch dreams


The book was championed by Simply Books in Bramhall who invited children to bring in ‘wishing boats’ to decorate their shop. And this is where the beauty of Starlight Sailor lies.

Some time before I had been at a book festival where a young and very successful author illustrator was talking about her books. She said she had wanted to create a book that she could hang a whole range of marketing around, characters who could be then made, sold, with all kinds of merchandise. I was horrified in a small and quiet way. As a parent with two children I hated all of the ‘crap’ that surrounds some books and I know that it is ‘commercial’ and was probably great for the author’s bank balance to franchise images etc, BUT, not so good for the parents who were leant on by their children to buy this stuff. With the dawning of the paperboat idea I had inadvertently stumbled on something wonderful. The only ‘ merchandising’ needed with this book is a piece of paper and an imagination.

When I was making the book I began to make boats and carry them with me and photograph them. The idea was that the paperboats would be some kind of a marketing campaign, but the thing is, making paperboats is just fun, so I became more wrapped up in the fun of the boats than the idea of selling the book.

Now the book is back again I am doing the same. Here’s the instructions on how to make a boat. They are printed in the back of the book.

Also Barefoot have easy to follow instructions on their website.



And I am inviting people to make boats and send me pictures or words or stories or songs, wishes and dreams to gather up a gallery of sound and images, over at Paper Boat Dreams.

You can decorate paper and make a boat, or write wishes or troubles onto a boat and sail them away. You can put them into unexpected places and photograph, you can dream yourself away from ever day on a paperboat journey. The only limit is your own imagination. Small boats, large boats, coloured, golden floating boats. You can photograph, draw, paint, write, sing……. make a film…….


And now and again I will draw on a paperboat and post it out to someone who has made me smile, or send a postcard, or something.

And the best thing about this is that you don’t even have to buy the book to take part. You can, if you want, find it in the library, or buy a copy from an indie bookshop. As ever Solva Mill have signed copies and post out to anywhere in the world. The new edition is a board book and it is so lovely. It was born to be a board book. But you don’t have to buy one. You just have to have a piece of paper, an imagination, and a playful heart.

starlight sailor


So, if you had a paperboat big enough, where would you go? Answers can be left in comments below or on the Paperboat Dreaming page. Please invite people to join in.

There are so many things you can do with this book. The endpapers are star charts. You can talk about the star patterns in the night sky, how they are different in northern and southern hemispheres. You can talk about how small we are in the universe. You can do creative writing about journeys by boat. You can learn about navigation. You can look at maps, early maps, with dragons and mermaids. You can talk about pirates and treasure and islands. If you live near the sea you can build castles high as high with flags that flutter in the sky and if you don’t you can draw them. Then let the sea fill up the moat and play inside with paperboats. And you can put paper boats on silver seas of fabric. You can weave and weft your way to sailing. You can write your troubles into the boat and fold them in to hold them captive, then sail them out across a sea. You can write your wishes and your prayers in the same wonderful way. You can make the boats into hanging mobiles, place names at tables, fill them with sweet treats, love.


So, what’s all the paperboat stuff about? Peaceful fun.

6 Responses to What’s all the paperboat stuff about? Or: Living with a Playful Heart.

  1. Pingback: Starlight Sailor | The Barefoot Gigi

  2. Amanda Posnett says:

    Hello Jackie
    Though I had never been before your words, pictures and photos made me feel I already knew Pembrokeshire and your blog inspired me to book a holiday there.My family and I have recently returned from a wonderful week spent near St David’s. The area exceeded my expectations- we all fell in love with it! Thank you.
    Just learned how to make a paper boat properly for the first time! I am a teacher of children with learning disabilities and our topic this term is Journeys.I am now inspired to use paper boats as part of our learning journey- can’t wait to start the term!

  3. Pingback: Q&A with illustrator Jackie Morris | Harper Voyager Books

  4. We had a visit from a wonderful story teller (Nicky Rafferty) last year. She tells the most fabulous story of a dread pirate using boats like this. All the children make the boats and then toss them on the sea (a big blue sheet). They add the essentials for the journey to the boat, make the storm. Sadly the stern is lost (tear off the tip of the stern) then the bow is lost (ditto) then the sail is lost (tear off the tip of the sail). Of course our dread pirate sinks to the bottom of the sea. However open up your boat and you will find his t-shirt floats to the top. No matter the age, and my lot were 11, they sat entranced. Their faces mirroring every step of the story.

  5. Margaret sawkins says:

    I’d go to the Paper Moon and send paper airplanes back to earth ccc

  6. Pingback: Paper Boats - Jackie Morris Artist

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