Our Sink-Float week was also an opportunity to bring in a beach theme, with our décor and imaginary play materials. We checked out from the library several books about the beach. Sadly, I didn’t love any of them.
Many of them (starred below) are part of a series of books about a particular character and they feel like the authors / publishers said “it’s time to write our next book about this character… what should the theme be?” “Hey, I know, let’s have them go to the beach!” So, they’re all OK books, but nothing special. (Unless your child happens to love that particular stock character.)
Here they are in order from the ones I liked the best / would most recommend to the ones I liked the least. To see the Amazon page for any item, just click on the picture of the book cover (Amazon affiliate link).
Seashells by the Seashore by Berkes and Noreika. A counting book, where Sue walks along the shore picking up seashells. Each time she picks one up, a picture of it is added to the left sidebar of the page, so you can keep an eye on all the shells she has collected. At the end, she and her brother Ben bring the shells to their grandmother. I like the concept a lot. The art is OK. The text is OK – “So many seashells that we can mix. If we find a Whelk Shell there will be six… The tide is rolling in and it’s getting pretty late. This shell looks like a slipper! Now we have eight.” I like that at the end, there’s a description of each of the shells. You could put the book out open to these pages with a shell observation station to help kids identify shells.
Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee by Van Dusen. Not quite a beach book, but I like it better than the beach books… Fun art style, nice writing: “Mr. Magee and his little dog, Dee loved spending time in their boat on the sea. So early one morning at 6:32, they made a decision: that’s just what they’d do.” They motor out to sea, then a mischievous whale blows water out of its blowhole till their boat is blown 50 feet high and lands in a tree. Other whales come to their rescue.
Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach* by Watt. Age 5 – 8. S.S. would rather vacation at home than risk a trip to the beach. So he builds his own beach with a crayon drawing of the water, a flashlight sun, an inflatable pool and kitty litter sand. He misses the sound of the ocean though, and mounts an expedition to the real beach to find a shell. He gathers all his protective gear and safety equipment then makes an elaborate plan for his journey. He ends up having a fabulous time at the beach. Some fun and wacky humor with some spy-style hijinks. One of 8 Scaredy Squirrel books.
Ladybug Girl at the Beach* by Soman and Davis. Age 4 – 6. Lulu is looking forward to the beach till they arrive and she discovers how big and noisy it is. Anxious, she stays on the beach, building sand castles, flying a kite, eating ice cream and more. She finally tests the water, but then a wave comes in and almost knocks her over. She retreats to the land. They play on shore until her bucket gets swept away by the tide. She rescues it then decides she’s not afraid of the waves after all, and spends the rest of the day splashing around. Nice illustrations, relatable and likeable lead character. One of 20 or so Ladybug Girl books.
Duck and Goose at the Beach* by Hills. Age 4 – 6. Goose loves the meadow and says he never wants to leave. Duck immediately decides to go on an adventure – a trip to the beach! Goose reluctantly follows. But then when they arrive at the beach, Goose loves it, but Duck feels worried. They return home to their meadow. #10 in the Duck & Goose series.
Curious George Goes to the Beach*. by Rey. Age 5 – 7, too long for a circle time. George goes to the beach with the man with the yellow swimsuit. They run into a friend (Betsy) who is scared to swim. George plays ball, digs in the sand and plays. The seagulls steal his food. He and Betsy feed the gulls. The picnic basket is swept out to sea and George rescues it, then he and Betsy swim. One of countless Curious George books.
Spot goes to the Beach* by Hill. Age 3 – 4. A lift the flap book. Spot goes to the beach. His dad buys him lots of toys. He plays with a ball, builds sand castles, goes fishing and finds a friend. Little kids like hte lift the flaps, but this book is nothing special. One of countless Spot books.
Paddington at the Beach* by Bond and Alley. Age 4 – 6. Paddington goes to the beach. Seagulls watch him and make random observations: “He’s made a sand castle. Look how pleased he is.” “Now he’s lost his bucket.” Then they notice he has a bun in his pocket, wait till there’s a few more birds gathered, then they steal his bun. Not a great story. Sort of a counting book, in that there’s seagull number 1 and so on, and your kid could count the number of seagulls on each page. But there’s many better counting books out there. One of many Paddington books.
Sea Rex by Idle. Age 3 – 5. The third in a dinosaur inspired series. I LOVE the illustrations. But the text… there’s just not much to the story, The words are things like “station yourself near a lifeguard will keep an eye on you. Use plenty of sunscreen. Everyone loves a picnic. Bring plenty to share.” The fact that there are dinosaurs in each of the drawings I think is supposed to make it silly and wacky, but somehow it’s just a nice little book about dinos and kids at the beach.
Pete the Cat at the Beach* by Dean. Ages 3 – 6. Pete goes to the beach. His brother Bob goes surfing, but Pete says “maybe later.” Pete builds a sand castle, finds seashells and a crab, eats lunch, and plays ball, all the while watching Bob with envy, Finally he goes in the water, then ends up having a great time surfing. One of many Pete the Cats. I have to say I think Pete the Cat’s I Love My White Shoes is fabulous and a quality I consider “classic”. Pete’s Groovy Buttons is pretty good. But all the early reader Pete books are just typical early reader fare and don’t compare to Shoes.
For something a little different, there’s Waiting for High Tide by McClure. It’s not at the bottom of my list because it’s my least favorite, but just because it’s so different from the others that it’s hard to compare….
Waiting for High Tide is beautiful in a way that’s unusual for kids’ books. Cut paper illustrations are just gorgeous. It tells of a family building a raft of logs and a boy playing on the beach during low tide, waiting impatiently for high tide to come in so they can take the raft out. He studies the barnacles. finds clamshells, crab parts and seaweed, watches the gulls crack clam shells open on the rock, and herons try to catch sculpin. This book isn’t a good fit for my Saturday STEM class. However, if I was planning a beach trip to the San Juan islands or anywhere else on the Salish Sea, I would ABSOLUTELY bring this along to read to my child before and after our days on the beach. Ages 5 – 8, too long for a circle time read-aloud.
My recommendation for a book about the beach / ocean
So, after reading all these library books, I’d say nothing comes close to a book I already own. The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell. This is a truly gorgeous book that honors the beauty of nature, and the magic of parents sharing nature at night with their children.
A mother takes a child out after dark. They see the moon, they run into the sea, they walk on the beach… “We just stayed for a while by the sea. And mama said to me, ‘remember this time. It’s the way life should be.'” It ends with “We sat by the fire, Mama and me, and ate hot buttered toast and I went to sleep on her knee. I’ll always remember just Mama and me and the night that we walked by the big big sea.” Ages 3 – 5. Wonderful bedtime book. To see the illustration style, do a google image search for “big big sea waddell“.