January 18, 2022

Chester Historical Society Reprints Classic Children’s Book, Ferryboat

Ferryboat Cover photo

Front cover of the book Ferryboat, reprinted by Chester Historical Society

This spring, as the State of Connecticut debated raising the fares for the historic Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, the Chester Historical Society focused on the history of the ferry as it opened its new transportation exhibit, “Over the River and Through the Woods.” After all, the ferry has been an integral part of Chester history since it began in the 1700s.

And now the Historical Society has reprinted the children’s book, Ferryboat, written about that historic ferry by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Giulio Maestro and originally published by HarperCollins in 1986.

Ferryboat went out of print several years ago, but the Maestros have permitted the Chester Historical Society to reprint 1000 copies of the book.

“We couldn’t be happier to be bringing this wonderful and colorful book to a whole new generation of readers and their families,” said Society president Skip Hubbard.  “Over the years we have had some requests, so I expect there will be plenty of interest. It’s a pleasure to read it with a child and it makes a great gift.’’

Ferryboat inside photo

The Maestros, who lived for many years in Old Lyme, where they raised their son and daughter, said, “We created the book because we loved the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry and enjoyed riding on it with our children when they were small. The children in the book are loosely based on our own son and daughter. Over the years, it was fun to share the book with other children at schools all over the United States as an example of something unique and scenic near our home in Connecticut.”

The Maestros now live in Arizona, “not far from the red rocks of Sedona,” where they continue to write and illustrate children’s books.

Ferryboat, chosen by Yankee Magazine in 2000 for its list of Classic New England Children’s Books, has also been referenced in Southwest Airlines’ Travel Guide, where the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is described as “a popular means of crossing the river during the summer months. It’s more than a tourist attraction – it’s an educational outing for children and adults into the workings of a modern-day ferry.” (Connecticut DOT, take note!)

Publishers Weekly wrote about Ferryboat, “Their words and pictures are so completely involving that it’s almost like being on the real thing. The author carefully explains the workings of the ferry and takes readers from shore to shore, lovingly describing the sights and sounds of the ride….The double-page spreads, with a deep blue river and lush tree-lined shores, are colorful and appealing.”  School Library Journal called the book “a charming treat,” adding,” How the ferry operates (it never needs to turn around since the front is the same as the back!) is sure to fascinate young armchair mariners.”

The book is available for purchase at the Chester Museum at the Mill in Chester, open weekends 10-4, and also at Century 21 Heritage Real Estate office in Chester. Ferryboat can also be found at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme; Gillette Castle in East Haddam; and the Connecticut River Museum and the Valley Railroad in Essex. It is priced around $12.