Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (9780544707375)
Swashby spent all of his time on the sea. He loved the sea, and the sea understood him better than anyone else. He lived as close to the sea as he could in a small house. His life was just how he liked it: simple and serene. That is until one day a little girl moved in next door. Swashby shut himself in his house, fed their gift of cookies to the seagulls, and wrote a message in the sand: NO TRESPASSING. But the sea changed it a little, leaving only SING, which the little girl proceeded to do while dancing on Swashby’s deck. The next message is turned into W-ISH, and when the little girl decides to wish on a starfish, Swashby comes out to show her how to do it properly. The next message has her playing on the beach, and Swashby find himself showing her how to make sandcastles that won’t topple. After Swashby again retreated, the water didn’t and soon the sea had pulled the little girl out with it. The choice was clear for Swashby.
This picture book is a stellar marriage of story and illustrations. Ferry offers two great characters here, the solitary seaman and the charming little girl. Oh and one more, the sea herself, who plays such a role in the story with both her support of Swashby and in her meddling with his messages. The text is just the right length, robust enough to create a full story to tell and short enough to read aloud well. The fiddling of the sea is just right, not quite easily guessed by the reader and very cleverly done.
The illustrations are marvelous. Done in acrylics, colored pencil and graphite, they capture the bright seaside where the sea fizzes along the beach. Swashby is pure prickles from his bristly beard to his scratchy sweater. Meanwhile the little girl is colorful and soft. The two together on the page make for a study in contrasts that is sure to please.
Satisfying sea fare. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.