6 Picture Books: Castles in the Sand | SLJ Spotlight

New beachy picture books to welcome the warmer months!
Nothing says summer like an outing to the beach. Sun-kissed hours spent swimming and splashing in the surf, exploring tidepools, picnicking or napping under an umbrella, hunting for shells, and, of course, playing in the sand. Whether a simple, solo-built structure or a grandiose, group (or robot-aided) construction project—a castle complete with a moat and turrets—it is understood that the incoming tide will soon reclaim it all to begin again another day.

Booth, Tom. Day at the Beach. 40p. Aladdin/Jeter. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534411050.

PreS-Gr 1 –Every summer, Gideon and his family visit the beach for some fun. On this particular trip though, this glory-seeking boy has decided that he would rather build a sandcastle without his sister. Carefully, he crafts his sculpture, then, just as he finishes, some people crash into it. Further attempts are also met with disaster, which prompts him to find a more secluded location. Finally, Gideon is able to create a masterpiece so grand that other beachgoers are drawn to it. Even though the crowds sing his praises, the boy feels lonely, and decides to rejoin his family. The sentiment that “building is most fun when done with others” should resonate with many children. Booth’s illustrations fit the content and tone quite well. The art is brightly colored, rendered in an animation style, and overall showcases the creator’s understanding of visual media. While the writing is not quite as polished, the images and message make up for it. VERDICT A good summertime read for the whole family to enjoy together. Suitable for storytime or one-on-one vacation sharing.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Funk, Josh. Albie Newton. illus. by Ester Garay. 32p. Sterling. May 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454922582.

K-Gr 2 –With a nod to the famous inventor, Albie’s passion as a thinker and a tinker is clear from the start. He arrives at a new school intent on constructing a special gift to befriend his classmates. Unfortunately, he shirks his clean-up duties, making others pick up the slack, and monopolizes all the craft supplies. Finally, a surprisingly astute Shirley dissuades the frustrated student mob saying, “Maybe Albie didn’t know. Let’s look at what he made.” His monumental spaceship time machine wins them over and the final spread shows a shot of the class, including the teacher, wearing historical costumes in space. Garay’s illustrations are colorful and humorously incorporate tools and objects into the background of each page while Funk’s satisfying rhyme propels the story like one of Albie’s chugging inventions. VERDICT Part ode to creativity, part reminder to be a conscientious classmate, this title will find its niche in elementary STEM collections and classrooms everywhere.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Maynor, Megan. The Sandcastle That Lola Built. illus. by Kate Berube. 32p. Knopf. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524716158.

PreS-Gr 2 –While building a sandcastle at the beach, Lola enlists the help of several children playing nearby. Cumulative text describing “the tall, tall, tower of the sandcastle that Lola built,” as well as the sea glass on top to signal mermaids, is interrupted when a foot belonging to “dude with a Frisbee” accidentally kicks it. Instead of becoming angry, Lola enlists his help, and he builds a wall. “This is the wall that protects the castle…that Lola and Frisbee Dude built,” continues the text, until a toddler with a bulldozer arrives. Lola redirects “Little Guy’s” digging to constructing a surrounding moat. Finally, Minnesota Girl adds a seashell path and the masterpiece is complete—when…“CRASH!” a huge wave destroys it. Lola is desolate until her new friends convince her to join them in making a new one. The cartoon illustrations are done in mixed media and collage. The cumulative text continually expands to include each one’s contribution to the project. Little Guy’s vocabulary appropriately consists of single words. Most scenes are spreads, and some include images of mermaids in clouds and sea. Lola’s grief at the castle’s destruction before the mermaids even move in is echoed in a scene of the child wrapped in blue hunched over atop blue-hued sand with mermaids floating away in the blue sky. VERDICT The delightful text, coupled with nondogmatic examples of intent cooperation, make this a wonderful choice for group sharing and a great vehicle for launching the beach season.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

Sklansky, Amy E. These Little Piggies Go to the Beach. illus. by Christine Davenier. 32p. Quarto/MoonDance. Apr. 2018. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633223806.

Toddler-PreS –A retelling of the “This Little Piggie” rhyme that follows the traditional formula but changes what the piggies are up to. Join the Piggie family as they drive to the beach, build a sandcastle, play beach ball, accidently destroy said sandcastle, and proceed to build a magnificent sand palace. The text and vocabulary used is simple and easy to follow, always appearing in its own space and following the rhythm of the original rhyme. It works well to tell the story, and Davenier provides extra context through her delightfully energetic illustrations. She even uses full spreads, without text, to transition the scenes from one rhyme to the next. This allows readers to infer the Piggie family’s emotions at certain points and allows them to guess what will happen next. The text is further supported by the bright, warm colors used to solidly place readers in the middle of a hot summer day. Together, Sklansky and Davenier have created a charming adaptation of a classic rhyme that will make readers want to wiggle their toes all the way to the beach. VERDICT An excellent seasonal retelling of “This Little Piggie” to entertain young children who are excited about a visit to the beach.–Margaret Kennelly, iSchool at Urbana-Champaign, IL

Walrath, Dana. I Am a Bird. illus. by Jaime Kim. 40p. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481480024.

PreS-Gr 1 –Spending a day at the beach, a boy and his father become one with nature. Succinct, first-person lyrical text introduces a metaphoric chain of associations: “I am a bird. I fly. I’m a fly. I land. I am land. I stretch to the sea.” Kim’s warm-hued watercolor illustrations show the child running free on the shore, holding a checked picnic blanket that spreads out behind him like wings. In the foreground, seagulls soar above the water. The language is playful, but some of the verb-to-noun transitions are a bit difficult to understand, such as: “I’m the sea. I crest. I’m a crest. I warn. I’m a worn old shoe in the sand” and “My toes get tickled by kelp. I am kelp. I branch. I’m a branch. I snap.” The slice-of-life adventure continues as father and son play in the sand, wave to a tugboat, and watch the sunset. VERDICT A sweet and immersive appreciation of nature and family time together. Perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont.

Ziarnik, Natalie. A Lullaby of Summer Things. illus. by Madeline Valentine. 40p. Random. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101935521.

PreS –This sweet, lilting lullaby is a pleasant, if slight, love song to the beach, showcasing a cozy mixed-race family. Starting with the children and father arriving home after a day spent in the surf and the sun, the illustrations intercut scenes of the evening routine with images of the beach day they have just finished. The rhyming text is evocative yet concrete, describing sounds, smells, and feelings in a visceral way. The gouache and digitally rendered illustrations depict an idyllic family. The cartoon artwork is expressive, as all of the characters appear to be happy, absorbed in the joy of the beach and the familiar evening routine, complete with dinner, bath, and bedtime kisses. However, interspersing of the evening routine with the daytime activities at the beach is initially confusing. Valentine’s depiction of light is luminous, and the colors and images are inviting. VERDICT A pleasant seasonal addition for families preparing for vacation, but not an essential purchase where budgets are tight.–Amy Lilien-­Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT

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