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Sand, sun, and fun

CHILDREN’S BOOKS | Four books about summer adventures

Sand, sun, and fun
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Sam Usher
(Templar 2024)

When a boy and his granddad take a day trip to the nearby beach, they explore, build sandcastles, and eat ice cream. But their day takes an unexpected turn when they find a stranded baby seal. Determined to reunite the seal with its family, they borrow a boat and head out toward the deep ocean. Author-illustrator Sam Usher’s buoyant, playful illustrations give the story a ­fantastic feel, as the characters dive among piles of pirate treasure and cuddly sea creatures. This book completes Usher’s Nature Quartet, a four-book set featuring the same boy and grandfather having adventures in the natural world. While admittedly light on plot, the book’s joyful illustrations carry the story, and readers will find much to enjoy in this warm tale of exploration. Ages 3-7

Good Night, Good Beach

Joy Cowley
(Gecko Press 2024)

In the vein of Goodnight Moon, Joy Cowley’s sparse, rhyming text describes a family’s afternoon and evening at a beach house: “Moon at the window, sea by the door, waves hush-hushing on the shore.” Hilary Jean Tapper’s pastel watercolor illustrations feature three adults, but the scenes mostly focus on five children who play in the sea, examine the day’s beach treasures (a shell and pieces of glass), and settle down to bed in the moonlight. This is a short story—only 28 pages—that will likely be a positive for families reading the book at bedtime. Although the book doesn’t include much action or connection to characters, it does provide an inviting and poetic reflection on the delights of a beach holiday. Ages 3-7

A Boy, His Dog, and the Sea

Anthony Browne
(Candlewick 2024)

Danny feels sad that his brother Mick has gone to play with friends. So Danny takes his dog Scruff to the oceanside and finds someone in the water needs help. In this heartwarming tale by author-illustrator Anthony Browne, the real hero turns out to be Scruff, who models perseverance and loyalty to save the day. Browne’s illustrations evoke a cloudy summer day, with tawny sand complemented by blue-green water and skies. Young readers will find plenty of details to pore over—such as the surprising shapes and faces of beach rocks in an early spread. Browne’s drawings of people aren’t as accomplished as his landscapes, but his endearing paintings of Scruff, and the book’s poignant ending, makes this book worth seeking out. Ages 3-7

Come Again, Pelican

Don Freeman
(Plough Publishing House 2024)

In 1961, author and illustrator Don Freeman first published this story of a young fisherman’s trip to the beach. Back in print this year, the 44-page picture book brings together the best elements of a beach vacation—sand dunes, sunshine, and freedom to play. When young Ty heads to the water, he meets his old friend Pelican perched on a wooden post. A rising tide spoils some of Ty’s plans, including by stealing one of his red boots. But Ty and Pelican eventually swap catches, giving them each what they need most. Freeman’s simple colored pencil illustrations are full of excitement and action, with a retro feel that will delight adults, too. This offering isn’t as original as Freeman’s Corduroy, but it’s worth savoring for its clever storytelling and understated reflection on God’s creation. Ages 6-9

Emily Whitten

Emily is a book critic and writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and University of Mississippi graduate, previously worked at Peachtree Publishers, and developed a mother’s heart for good stories over a decade of homeschooling. Emily resides with her family in Nashville, Tenn.



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