The Wreck of the Zephyr

Author and Illustrator:  Chris Van Allsburg


What mystery lies behind the wreck of a small sailboat?  It might not be so unusual if the wreck weren’t found uphill to some cliffs, high above the sea.   The old man sitting there among the broken timbers simply explained, “Waves carried it up during a storm.” 

I must have appeared skeptical as he quickly smiled and said, “Well, there is another story.” And a most unusual and strange tale began to unfold. . .

Could there have been a young boy, obsessed with becoming the world’s greatest sailor, caught in a storm so horrific that he was carried to a place where boats sail on the wind instead of on the water?


Finding himself and his boat, the Zephyr, on a strange beach after the storm, the boy is astonished to see boats gliding by in the clouds. He is determined to find the correct sails and learn how to catch the wind in this magical way.

Get lost in illustrations so vivid that you can almost feel the whisper of the wind and hear the flutter of the canvas as our young sailor glides his Zephyr through the night sky.  Allow yourself to depart this world for another to entertain the marvelous possibility of dreams.  Only then can you decide if the young boy was truly the greatest sailor of all.

Mary Byrne Kline

1.  What did the sailor mean when he said of the sea gull, “There’s the only sailor who can go out on a day like this?”

2.  What was the significance of the old man’s limp?

3.  What is your opinion of the old man’s story?

Share your thoughts...