Lynn: There’s no better summer fun than a day at the beach! Cindy and I are so lucky to live in Michigan beach towns. Our gorgeous, sandy beaches more than make up for the mountains of snow we get in the winter. Today, we’re looking at four picture books that celebrate this most iconic symbol of summer fun.
Summer in my Boston childhood meant making the long drive to the beach house in Wellfleet, way out near the end of Cape Cod. For me, opening Deanna Caswell’s Beach House was like stepping back in time—but kids everywhere will recognize the agony of finally arriving at the beach and hearing these words:
“To the beach!
Oh no! But when everything has been unloaded and put away, to the beach the family goes. Caswell’s spare, rhyming text tells of all those wonderful beach activities: digging clams, chasing crabs, making bonfires on the beach, flying kites, and going body-surfing. Amy June Bates’ warm and beautiful watercolor illustrations are a sweet tribute to that quintessential summer experience.
For younger readers, Shutta Crum’s charming Uh-Oh! uses just the phrase most dreaded by parents. Two tiny beachgoers collect treasures on the beach in a bucket with many uh-oh’s along the way. After a big wave provides the biggest uh-oh of all, our two little adventurers are wrapped up in towels and comforted by their watchful moms. Patrice Bartons’s adorable pencil sketch and digitally colored illustrations provide fun clues to everything that is going on at the beach.
I could never keep a goldfish alive for more than a week . . .
but they are true survivors in children’s literature.
Cindy: Uh-oh is right! Fun in the Sun, by David Catrow, has several uh-oh moments of its own in this odd and hyperbolic trip to the beach. A small but round, pale dog squeezes into his swimsuit to start the fun and drags his goldfish along for the trip. The bowl is on wheels but by the story’s end I was reminded of the long-suffering fish in The Cat in the Hat. I could never keep a goldfish alive for more than a week when my children were young, but they are true survivors in children’s literature. Some of the page turns reveal big surprises, like a double-page spread of an enormous stomach that is mistaken for a good beach spot! Others reveal familiar beach happenings like kite flying and getting sand in your lunch or swimsuit. Young readers will enjoy puzzling out what the dog has forgotten at the story’s open and close. Adults and young readers might be laughing at separate gags on each page, but there will be laughter.
And, finally, all fun days at the beach must end. Feet Go to Sleep, by Barbara Bottner, reminds us of all the fun we had at the beach, but the recitation serves as a nice way to calm down and prepare for bed. The opening endpapers show a dark, empty but starlit beach scene that almost glows. The title page features empty lawn chairs and a closed grill and a young girl standing in the doorway of a beach cottage with indoor lights drawing us inside. Fiona is tired but still a little wound up from the day. She begins telling each body part to go to sleep, one by one, starting with her toes, “Toes, go to sleep!”—
Toes were for gripping flip-flops on the way to the beach.
—through the knees that steadied her while building a sand castle and the arms that caught the beach ball. Maggie Smith’s mixed-media illustrations have just the right touch, showing both the fun and a child’s need to rest. Parents will especially like Fiona’s efforts to put herself to sleep. It’s a skill that is so important for young children to learn, and one which many parents don’t delegate.
Now, get your rest—we have more summer fun on the way in our next post!