SAILING WITH THE WIND by Thomas Locker (Dial: $15; 32 pp.; ages 4-8). Storybooks about journeys have excited children ever since Mother Goose launched that cow over the moon and Little Red Riding Hood ventured into the woods alone. Plots with a bit of daring, a bit of tension and a safe return, especially into the arms of loved ones, will turn youngsters into loyal readers.
"Sailing With the Wind" is one such tale with a bonus of the author's blue-ribbon illustrations. A young girl waits eagerly to sail with her Uncle Jack from her river home to the sea she's never seen. She and her loving parents live in a house on a hill similar to the one in Locker's first book, "Where the River Begins" (1984). The landscape is equally familiar; in fact, this could be subtitled, "Where the River Ends." The view from their wide summer porch is hued in sunset shadows as the family listens to Uncle Jack's adventures and considers his invitation: "Don't you think Elizabeth's old enough now to sail to the ocean with me?" he asks.
They leave the next morning in a dawn "foggy and so quiet that I felt as if we were inside a cloud." There's no wind, but the current carries the small boat on its way, finally into sunshine and to an island for a picnic. As they sail from the bay "out upon the vast blue ocean," wind froths the waves, thunderheads darken the horizon, and Elizabeth is so frightened she feels sick. After Uncle Jack guides them to safety, they laugh together in relief, happy with their narrow escape and happy in their love for each other.