a list of…five sun-lovin’, beach-bummin’ books

I’m back after a couple of weeks on the road, but still thinking vacation-y, summer-y thoughts, so today, we’re going to the beach…

Beach, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper

One of my favorite illustrators, Elisha Cooper has created this intriguing catalog of sights and sounds of a day at the beach.

Beginning with the empty sands and wide horizons of a beach at the break of day, Cooper steadily fills it with umbrellas and towels, children and adults, seagulls and sandcastles and sunscreen.  As the unseen observer, Cooper depicts the many ways people start the day, approach the water, play, sunbathe, picnic, and pack up.  He categorizes different kinds of waves, clouds, smells, and the sounds of boats and planes and buoys.

Cooper’s book has the look of an artist’s sketchbook, with dozens and dozens of gesture-style drawings of the widely-varied visitors and activities he sees.  Glimpses of clouds and waves, sequences of action, a jubilant sampling of seashells and creatures, are scattered about the pages with just the right amount of brief explanation, leaving plenty of space for your own thoughts and observations.

I love Cooper’s clear, minimal artwork, his sense of when to stop “talking”, his varied vantage points, his use of white space, and the expansive feel he gives to the oceanside.  This is a conversation-generating, beautiful book to share with children.

Harry by the Sea, by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

Harry, the classic and beloved black-and white dog of several 60s-era picture books, is a dog your kids definitely should know. 

In this episode, Harry goes to the seaside with his family.  Harry likes sand, and water, and picnics, but he really dislikes the hot sun, so he is ever trying to escape the heat.  When a big wave crashes over him, decorating Harry with a large coat of seaweed, Harry feels happily cool and comfy, but…he looks like an alarming sea monster to everyone else at the beach! 

Pandemonium ensues as Harry innocently runs about, searching for his family, while hysterical beach-goers and beach attendants try to capture what they believe is a Bushy-Backed Sea Slug!  You’ll have to read to discover how a hot-dog vendor and a massive, polka-dotted umbrella are the solutions to Harry’s troubles.

This vintage, entertaining story and the delightful pictures are certain to please your children, ages 4 and up.  Once you’ve fallen in love with Harry, there are several more of his stories to scope out.

Wave, a wordless book by Suzy Lee

In this brilliant, wordless book, we watch one spunky little girl interact with the waves on a beach.

Initially rushing down to the water’s edge, the girl is pleased to see the lapping waves from a comfortable distance.  When a stronger wave rolls up at her, however, she turns tail and runs.  This running away does not seem to settle well with her brave personality, so she counters with some confident sass of her own.  She roars back.  She directs the wave like a traffic cop.  The wave seems to acquiesce.  She dances and kicks and splashes in the wave.  This is fun!  I am in charge!

Until, a large wave unfurls itself, ignores her brazen looks, and crashes down upon her!  Instead of ruining her day, though, the voluminous water has brought unexpected pleasure.  By the time the girl leaves the beach, she has established a lovely friendship with the waves.

In brilliant simplicity, Lee is able to tell a complete story without words and portray gobs of personality.  Her minimal charcoal lines and use of only blues and grays are transformed through her graphic genius into a very appealing , child and adult friendly, book.

Those Summers, written and illustrated by Aliki

Another of my favorite author/artists, Aliki was born into a Greek family in New Jersey in 1929.  In this book, she describes the delightful family fun she experienced as a child, apparently along the Jersey shore.

The big beach house welcomes scads of relatives and this loving bunch of aunts and uncles and cousins spend many sunny, happy days doing handstands on the sand, tumbling in the waves, picnicking on sandwiches and lemonade, collecting shells, building  sand castles.  Rainy days bring indoor fun, and evenings often allow outings to the boardwalk, complete with cotton candy and giant slides and fast rides and sparkling lights. 

Aliki’s charming, bright watercolors vividly portray the jumble of love, joy, sun, fun, and family of her memories.  Sweet story!

Sophie’s Bucket, written and illustrated by Catherine Stock

Sophie wakes up one morning to discover some exciting presents, all wrapped up, are waiting for her at the foot of her bed.  A jolly sand pail and a bright, striped swim suit!  She is going with her parents to the seashore for the very first time!

Her mom tells her the bucket is for putting things in, and throughout the day at the beach, Sophie uses it for lots of different items: a tuna sandwich, a bit of sea water, and sand; some shells; even a tiny pink crab.  In the evening, after a cozy fire on the beach with roasted sausages, Sophie discovers the most unusual, most magical thing of all, right in her bucket!  What could it be?

I’ve featured another book about Sophie in my blog — Sophie’s Knapsack, one of our family favorites.  This is the same Sophie, and the same sweetness.  Catherine Stock’s watercolors are glorious, light-soaked, soft; Sophie’s family exudes love and closeness and a love for the wonder of nature’s untrampled places.  This is another winner.

Here are the links to Amazon:
Harry by the Sea
Those Summers
Sophie’s Bucket