Read On the Beach

Lynn: One of the reasons I love to travel is discovering the differences in our world:  sights and sounds, food, architecture, customs, cultures and even the small details of everyday life.  But just as fascinating are the delightful similarities that link us all and sometimes those are some of the best memories of a trip.  My husband and I got home from our amazing month in France yesterday and as we unpack and sort pictures I knew that I couldn’t resist sharing one particular experience.  I promise to stop talking about the trip after this!

One of my favorite places is the stretch of French coast between Dieppe and La Havre called the Alabaster Coast.  The chalk cliffs gleam white and in places the sea has carved arches and shapes.  The beach is made of rocks rolled and polished by the waves, then cast up on the shore clear down to the waterline where sand takes over.  Villages of stone houses bedecked in bright flowers clamber up and down the cliffs and nestle in the harbors.  People stroll the boardwalk, sit in the cafes, and play on the beach, some brave souls even venturing into the cold water.  My husband and I spent three lovely days along the coast, exploring the villages, climbing the cliffs and strolling the esplanade.  On the first day we had just had lunch in a beach-front cafe in the village of Veules-les-Roses.  Lunch took the requisite two hours and was the local specialty of moules and frites (mussels steamed in wine, garlic and onion with hot french fries) with a carafe of crisp white wine followed by a mound of tart citron gelato (ice cream with chunks of lemon and lime).  (Oh, the food sounds just horrid, doesn’t it?–cd) The sun was out, the sea was turquoise and we were strolling along in a daze of blissful sensory repletion.  (Yeah, that sounds just horrid, too, eh?–cd)On the boardwalk ahead of us was one brightly painted wooden hut flanked by colorful deck chairs and umbrellas.  Lazily I dredged up my slow and pitiful French to translate the sign on the hut “Lire à la Plage” as “Read on the Beach.  My inner librarian struggled up past the moules as I realized what I was seeing!  People were going into the hut, selecting books and magazines from the bins and stacks, settling into the deck chairs and reading!!!!  We went into the hut, of course, and learned that this was a reading promotion by the Seine-Maritime Department (regional government) and that the reading huts were set up in 12 of the coastal beach towns.  I wasn’t able to learn whether the libraries were involved – see again my slow and pitiful French – but it was clear that the effort was extremely popular.  Over the next few days we saw the huts on other beaches and they were always full of happy readers.  The books had some stiff competition too – take a look at the local scenery!

A few days later in the Belgian town of De Haan on the North Sea we saw another beach library – this time specifically for children where the kids were enthusiastically sorting through the bins and reading on the sand.  How cool is this??  I love the idea and loved even more finding that book lovers truly are universal.  It’s too late for this year but what an awesome promotion this would be for states like ours with lots of beaches and summer visitors!

OK – I promise to return to books and moan only occasionally about how much I miss French food.  But any time anyone wants to see some travel pictures – I’m your girl!

Cindy: I don’t know about you guys, but if I can’t travel myself, the next best thing is getting some good stories and photos from someone else’s travels, especially someone who is a foodie. On my first visit to New York City a few years ago a sister-in-law who is not a foodie wanted to eat at an Olive Garden in Times Square. We overruled her and dragged her kicking and screaming into a Brazilian hole in the wall where I had the most wonderful cassoulet, perfect cone of saffron rice, and a tasty Brazilian beer. My sister-in-law was not amused or nourished, but I was delighted. But I digress. (It’s summer and I’m a school librarian and my current review deadlines are met until next Thursday so I have time to blather on…)

We definitely need to scheme with our public libraries about this Read on the Beach idea for next year. I love to hang at the beach and if I could connect with some of my middle schoolers that way–how awesome! Maybe we could even organize a fall Read on the Beach day before the cool temps settle in. I’m geeked! If any of you have organized something like this, please let us know.

I had some “moules” at dinner last week at a Carrabba’s (birthday dinner for said sister-in-law) but no “frites.” I don’t think they were the same as what Lynn has been raving about. I think I need to hit the Alabaster Coast. Anyone want to join me?

Books, food, beaches…ah….that’s the life.

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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.

3 Comments on "Read On the Beach"

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  1. angela.craft@gmail.com' Angela says:

    1) I love that in France french fries (a food we consider low-class) is an appropriate side dish for mussels (definitely fancy food).

    2) People who eat at the Olive Garden in Times Square should be banished.

    3) In high school during the summer, my Tuesday schedule was drive to Harbor Lights, stock up on some BBYA books, then drive to the beach for a couple of hours of reading 😀 Love the Read on the Beach idea!

  2. mary.clark@smusd.org' Mary says:

    I usually wait for the tourists to leave before I read on the beach! I’d love to see a library pop-up there–I’m going to suggest to the Friends of the Library in town that they set up a mobile bookstore at the beach next summer. That would be one way to get rid of all those National Geographics everyone donates:)

    And I’m firmly in Angela’s camp when it comes to the Olive Garden in Times Square!

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