Jules vs. the Ocean

S. & S. May 2020. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534441682.
K-Gr 2–Sima revels in a Miami-inspired palette full of tans, pinks, and turquoise in this ode to sisterhood and the beach. Jules, who has brown hair and a sharp bob, yearns to build a “most excellent” sandcastle, one to catch the eye of her bodyboarding older sister, but the waves keep destroying her creations. The text conveys Jules’s frustration, but the illustrations do not render the ocean a particularly dynamic nemesis. Sima relegates the frothy water to the edges of her beachy scenes, refocusing the central tension from a tussle between Jules and the ocean to the girl’s battle with her own expectations. Some readers may find Jules’s aggravation misplaced—why not build further away from the surf?—but others will sympathize with her determination and desire to impress her sister. Near the end, the siblings join forces to celebrate the power of the ocean, and a verbal refrain from the beginning returns, which makes the subsequent six pages feel slack and unnecessary, notwithstanding the beauty of Sima’s beachy sunset.
VERDICT Sima’s visual style radiates her usual appeal, but a lack of focus in both text and illustrations threatens to wash this story out.

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