Noah’s Seal by Layn Marlow

Cover image for Noah’s Seal.

Noah’s Seal by Layn Marlow (9781536218510)

Noah is waiting on the beach, wondering when he and Nana can take a sail out to see the seals. Nana needs to fix the boat before they go, so Noah must amuse himself on the beach instead. He looks out to see to check for seals, but they don’t like to come in to shore. So Noah digs in the sand while thinking of seals. Suddenly, he notices the pile of sand behind him looks a lot like the body of a seal. Noah steadily works to make the sand look even more like a seal, giving it shape, speckles, whiskers, and eyes and mouth. The two lie on the beach together until Nana calls him because a storm is coming. The two take shelter in the boat under a tarp, but the sand seal is washed away. Nana tells him that the boat is fixed and they can head out to see the seals tomorrow, and that is when Noah sees his seal alive and near the beach. Surely they must take the boat out right now!

A delightful mix of wishful fantasy and the beauty of a day spent on the beach making something, this picture book is a summery joy. The relationship between Nana and Noah is evident right from the beginning, full of warmth and support, but also offering Noah plenty of space to amuse himself. The text is just right, offering a clear view of the setting while moving ahead as quickly as an ocean breeze.

The illustrations are just the right mix of sunshine colored sand and teal sea wave. Noah and his grandmother are Black characters. Noah’s seal is depicted in a way that makes sense for a child to have designed and built it. It’s simple and effective.

Perfect reading for a summery day, whether on the beach or not. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

Faraway Things by Dave Eggers

Faraway Things by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (9780316492195)

Lucian spent his time on the beach after storms, searching for “faraway things” that have been swept onto the shore. One day, he discovered a silver, gold and copper cutlass wrapped in seaweed. Lucian had never seen anything like it and hung it on the wall of his room. That night he dreamt of his father. The next day, he played with the sword on the beach, eventually turning one of his sleeves from long to short when he swung it. That afternoon, a great wooden ship appeared as the fog cleared and a rowboat came towards shore. The ship’s captain spoke with Lucian, explaining that not only was his ship caught on a sandbar due to the lighthouse being unlit, but he was missing his cutlass. Lucian tried to claim the cutlass was his, but the captain had the matching sheath on his belt. The captain offered a trade, and Lucian got to head to the ship and pick out anything he wanted from the captain’s stateroom. Out of all of the wonderful objects, Lucian picked out a lantern. When he returned home again, he took that lantern to the top of the lighthouse tower and once again the beam of light went out over the water.

Written in beautiful language and with sentences that sing with wind and saltwater, this picture book is one that should be shared out loud. The writing has a gorgeous cadence to it while it also has rich metaphors embedded in it. The story itself is well crafted with a lovely arc that begins with searching the beach and the discovery of the cutlass. That story is woven with the loss of Lucian’s father and the dimming of the lighthouse. When the captain arrives, the story takes a marvelous turn toward adventure and possibility.

Murphy’s art is a gorgeous study of foggy beaches, newly bright sun, and one great ship. She shares small details in her images, celebrating the crowded stateroom and the treasures of beachcombing in Lucian’s room. The illustrations play with sea and sky, each expansive and full of deftly applied color.

One to share aloud, this book is a treasure. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little, Brown and Company.

Seaside Stroll by Charles Trevino

Cover image

Seaside Stroll by Charles Trevino, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga (9781580899321)

Told with only words that begin with “s” this picture book is superbly surprising. A little girl and her mother bundle up for a winter visit to the seaside. The little girl brings along her doll, and they explore the snowy sand together. She finds a stick, swings it at the seagulls. There are shells, stones, seaweed and more to discover on the sand. She is surprised when a surge of water takes her doll away and into a tidepool. The doll is soaked and after the doll is saved, the little girl is sopping wet too. Cold and shivering, they leave the beach and head home for a hot shower and a cozy story before bed.

Trevino creates an entire story here, not just a series of words that begin with the same letter. Based on poetry designed in American Sign Language, his book is thoughtful and fascinating. Using clever and smart punctuation, he creates a world of snow and sand for readers to explore alongside his young character. Amazingly, the book reads aloud brilliantly and aloud shows the dynamic nature of language and letters.

The artwork tells much of the story, since the text is so focused and brief. The joy of exploring the cold seaside, the pleasure of discovery and the return home to cozy warmth, all are depicted with bright colors, sunshine and then warm firelight.

Something special. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Charlesbridge.

Sandcastle by Einat Tsarfati

Sandcastle by Einat Tsarfati (9781536211436)

The little girl who narrates the story loves to build sandcastles. She doesn’t just build regular ones though, she builds huge and elaborate creations. It has turrets and a moat. Inside are curving staircases and large windows. Soon the sandcastle brings kings and queens from around the world to visit. The royalty loved the castle, particularly the endless supply of ice cream. But the next morning, troubles started as the food got sand in it. The next day, the knights got sand their armor. The plants in the greenhouse started to wilt because they were not meant to grow in pure sand. Everything was being spoiled by the sand: locks wouldn’t open, baths were sandy, and the beds were itchy. Everyone was angry. So that’s when the little girl created one more thing out of sand: a sand ball to have a sandy fight. But suddenly, the waves came and washed everyone out to sea, the sandcastle and all. There was just one thing left to do: build a sandcastle.

This delight of a summer read captures the wonderful tales that children making sandcastles tell themselves as they build. Their creations may not be as grand and large as this one, certainly not big enough to enter, but they will recognize their own visions of grandeur and the marvel of creating a castle of their own. The entire book is wry and funny, from the variety of royalty who visit to the various complaints that living in a sandcastle creates. When the water finally rushes in, there is a moment of contentment in a job fully completed. And then started again.

The illustrations are done digitally and have a sharp crispness to them. The first pages are filled with others crowding the beach and are a joy to explore visually. That then makes way to the opportunity of building a sandcastle near the water and the marvelous details provided there.

A funny sun-drenched sandy delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

Review: Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers (9780823442867)

Jamie spends her time at the edge of the quiet beach near the waves. She is hard at work making something, but she isn’t sure what quite yet. People walk past and ask her pesky questions, but Jamie just wants to be alone with the swish of the waves and her own humming as she works. Then someone else comes to the edge of the water. She has a lot of things along with her and sets up an easel to paint. She starts to work, and Jamie asks her what she is making but the painter isn’t sure yet. Jamie agrees. The two work side-by-side silently with only the hum and swish of their work making noise. Still, they are clearly friends. Finally, Jamie is done with her sandcastle, bridge and creatures made of rocks and objects. The painter is done too and they share their work with one another.

Myers captures the intensity of a young artist who just wants to be left alone to quietly work on their project. The importance of silence and space to think and be creative is emphasized here, along with the need to not explain during the creative process. The simple and limited text in the book is used very successfully to show Jamie’s brisk responses to those who ask her questions and also her connection to the ocean and her kindred spirit.

Myers, who has illustrated several picture books previously, shows great skill in his illustrations here. From the images of Jamie and the ocean together in their isolation to the lovely connection she forms with the painter. There is a strong sense of place, of art and of introversion on the page that is very welcome.

A lovely look at creating art and finding space to be quiet. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill

This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill

This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill (9780525553458)

A little boy is so excited to be headed to the beach with his father! He even made breakfast, packed and got dressed before his father woke up. On the way to the beach, he keeps up an excited chatter. But once they get there, the beach is crowded and loud. They set up their umbrella and towel a little apart from the crowd, but it’s still too sandy and hot. The boy wants to go home, right now! But his patient father helps him breathe and count. They set up a quiet fort and take some time. Soon everyone is ready to build sandcastles and have some ice cream together.

Cotterill looks at sensory overload in this picture book in the new Little Senses series. Children on the autism spectrum or highly sensitive children will recognize their response to new situations that are loud and crowded here. It is dealt with using sensitivity and exercises that are soothing and give back some control to the child. The tone here is reassuring that children can do it, with a little help.

The illustrations are bright and friendly. On the title page, readers will notice that the family has been planning and working up to going to the beach for awhile by using a chart. The noises of the beach are shown as overwhelming and loud, the chatter in the car forms the hills along the way, and the eventual shared noise making is smaller and more enjoyable. It’s a clever way to use words to create the environment around the characters and show the impact of noise.

A welcome subject for all libraries, this one is also a good read. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh

Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh

Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh (9781536207712)

A little boy waits for his friend, Chicken Smith, who usually stays at the same beach for the same week in the summer. The boy comes to beach every year and knows it very well, just like Chicken Smith does. Chicken can do all sort of things like ride his rusty bike without any brakes, just using his foot to slow down. As the boy thinks about Chicken Smith and anticipates his arrival, his sister starts to call him, but he is too busy waiting for Chicken to come. He looks forward to spotting whales together like they did last year. But his sister is still calling, so he heads up to the lighthouse to see what she wants. Out in the ocean, they can see a whale together. Maybe Chicken Smith won’t be coming this summer after all. But hanging out with his sister may not be so bad anyway.

This picture book is about a summer friendship and by exploring their connection with one another, the book also shares iconic summer moments at the beach. Finding a buoy, seeing a flying fish, swimming all day. Mackintosh has fully developed the voice of the little boy, who tells the story from his personal perspective. It is his voice that makes the book come alive and that tells of the ache of not knowing when or if a friend will arrive and what that might do to an entire summer vacation.

The illustrations are modern and move from white sand with a clearly hot sun to images of whales swimming in the sea. Macintosh plays with color, using reds, blues and greens to fill some pages while leaving others bleached out.

Ideal summer reading that mixes sunshine fun with summer friendships. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

Review: The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer

The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer

The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer, illustrated by Simon Bailly (9780823442430)

This picture book features three nested books, each smaller than the last. Thomas and his parents are on vacation at the beach in the first and largest book. His parents decide to take a nap and Thomas is bored, so he heads off and explores the beach. When he can’t find his parents, he stops and sits down, noticing a small book abandoned in the sand. He opens it and discovers the story of Thomas who is on vacation with his parents in the snowy mountains. His parents take a nap; Thomas wanders off. Thomas can’t find them and notices a book nearby. When he opens it, he discovers the story of Thomas and his family visiting outer space. Each book ends with Thomas finding his family right near him and as the smaller books close, the reader is once again back in the beach story and the family heads home.

Originally published in France, this book is very unique and exploring it for the first time is a remarkable experience. The nesting of the books physically represents the way that the stories nest together, rather like a Russian nesting doll where the smaller ones are on the inside. Still, in these books the stories get wider ranging as the books shrink down. The text is simple and accessible, feeling almost like a vintage tale until the nesting begins.

The art and book design here are fantastic. The nested books even feel right inside the larger images that form a frame around them. Each book has a cover that represents what is inside it, much like the main cover does with the boy in snow gear reading on a beach under a ringed planet.

Clever and funny, this is a rewarding book to explore. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.

3 New Summery Picture Books

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix (9781771472050)

Two small children return home from a beach vacation. The little girl notices that her shoes are still filled with sand. When her brother asks her what she will do with them, she decides to plant them in the garden like seeds. Perhaps they will grow into yellow beach umbrellas, or huge pinwheels, or lemon ice cream. They could form a huge sandcastle, big enough to live in. Or best of all, maybe a beach will form at home. Before they can think of more ideas though, it’s time for bed and their father promises another trip to the beach next year. This picture book has a lovely mix of boisterous imaginings and also a steady quietness. The two children dream of what would grow from the grains of sand, thinking together about the possibilities even as they settle in at home. The illustrations are beautifully done in pencil with bursts of blue and yellow, the yellow setting the page aglow. This is a winner of a summer read, just right for bedtime. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor

The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor, illustrated by Kate Berube (9781524716165)

This summery picture book offers a riff on The House That Jack Built. Lola is busily building a sandcastle on the beach. She makes a tall tower and tops it with a piece of sea glass that will signal the mermaids. But then a kid playing frisbee accidentally knocks her castle down. He stays to help rebuild this time with a wall around the castle to protect it. A little boy pushes a bulldozer into the wall and he stays to help dig a moat around the wall. A girl trips and spills her shells. She stays to build too. But then a wave wipes all of their building away. Lola is ready to quit until the others inspire her to keep on building.

Using the format of The House That Jack Built as a place to build from, this book does not stick solely to that structure. Instead it adds walls, moats, and friendship to the tale, creating a looser storyline. The illustrations are friendly and bright with a diverse cast of children who play together and others who fill the beach in the background. A great book to enjoy with your feet in the sand. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Alfred A. Knopf.)

Summer Supper by Rubin Pfeffer

Summer Supper by Rubin Pfeffer, illustrated by Mike Austin (9781524714642)

Told entirely in words that start with the letter S, this picture book is a celebration of summer, seeds and sunshine. In their garden, a family grows spinach, squash, spuds, strawberries and sunflowers. The story begins with the sowing of the seeds, watering them and the sprouts growing. It moves quickly on to harvest where the vegetables are made into salad and succotash. The night ends with music, cleaning up and bed. And maybe one final snack.

Told in very simple words, the story is accented by “s” words shared right in the illustrations. The book is fast moving which will be welcomed by small children who are eager to see the results of the hard work of gardening. The celebratory nature of the book revolves around the harvest and the family. The illustrations are bright and merry, showing the color of the garden. A yummy book to share throughout the spring, summer and fall. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Random House.)