A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams

51978052Lynn: Cindy found this wonderful book on the shelf at her public library, fell in love with it and shared it with me and the focus group. To say it was a hit is an understatement and the boys are not happy I’m returning A Beach Tail (Boyds Mills 2010) to Cindy. Clearly this is another one I’m going to purchase soon! Here in West Michigan we spend a lot of time on the beach and it is easy to see that both author Williams and illustrator Floyd Cooper do too. When Gregory and his dad make a trip to the beach, Gregory draws a lion in the sand with a drawing stick. Dad goes to sit on his towel telling Gregory to “stay out of the water and not leave Sandy” – the lion he has drawn. Gregory is resourceful in the way small children are and he draws Sandy a tail that wanders down the beach around the many things he discovers. When Gregory looks up a while later he realizes he can no longer pick out his dad’s umbrella from among all the other beach umbrellas on the beach. Not to worry, Gregory simply follows Sandy’s tail back to where he began and where Dad has been watching all the time.

Our focus group both asked to hear and read this book independently over and over. They especially enjoyed watching Gregory’s progress with Sandy’s tail and the objects he circumnavigated and they relished the text that is full of lovely swish-swooshes, and directional words. This is a terrific book to read out-loud.

I love the story too and was captivated by Cooper’s illustrations with their sandy hues and child-level perspectives. I appreciate the subtle assurance that Gregory’s dad is watching while both allowing Gregory’s explorations and also making sure he is safe. Add this lovely book to your summer fun.

Cindy: There is so much to admire about this book. Cooper’s pastel art work puts the reader right there at the beach with Gregory, and the soft edges and uncluttered pages really add to the atmosphere. Yay for the large trim size on this book, too–the double page spreads are glorious. Is there anything more scary to a young child than feeling lost? Hardly. Williams’ delightful story about a father/son outing, the play on words with the drawing of a lion/line, the reassurance of dad’s watchful eye and the resourcefulness of the child all make this book shine. Here’s hoping for a shiny Caldecott medal on this at year’s end and then we’ll pair it with Ezra Jack Keats’ Snowy Day for a winter/summer look at young boys’ outdoor adventures.

Bonus: Art teachers at all levels would do well to use this book to show examples of perspective.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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