We live on a hill overlooking the beach, so we really, really like books about beaches, boats, and any other marine topic. These are four books (2 on Pirates! arrr!) we really enjoyed about life on and around the ocean.
Beach is simply a book about a day on the beach by Elisha Cooper. The simple, yet lively illustrations bring the beach to life, even when you’re reading the book in your bedroom on a cold, wet day. The book starts with an empty beach at the beginning of the day, then shows people arriving in various ways. The day is explored with glimpses into different people’s eyes – the sisters build a sand sculpture, a girl covers a friend in the sand, and the seagulls watch everything. There are gorgeous collages of people in different positions and participating in different beachy activities while the lifeguard watches over everyone. The day continues in this vein – sort glimpses into a great variety of what happens at the beach. The beach empties out as the day turns to dusk – less than half a dozen people on the beach as the book ends. This is a sweet book that is a quick read for the adults, but there are so many little pictures for the kids to pore over in bed or on the couch after the story is read.
The Serpent Came to Gloucester is a book based on a true story, by M. T. Anderson, illustrated by Bagram Ibatouilline. On a hot day in August, 1817, the people of Gloucester, Massachusetts saw a sea serpent off their shore. At first, they were scared of the monster, but then they went out in their boats to watch the sea serpent frolic. The book tells the story of the townspeople and the serpent in a wonderful rhyming poem, with a haunting refrain “As it swam in the sea, in the lovely sea. As it swam in that ancient, old sea”. As the waters cool, the sea serpent leaves, and in the next summer hunters come with harpoons, and when the sea serpent returns people try to catch him. There is a scary bit where you think he might be caught (as a warning for kids who are anxious), but it turns out OK. The book leaves you wondering what really came to Gloucester that summer, and whether it will ever return. This book was greatly enjoyed by my 6 and 8 year olds (the 3 year old not so much), but there was one scary bit. The paintings are amazingly gorgeous, and the whole feel of the book is old (as if it were from the 1800s), which fascinated all of us. We recommend this for the older readers in your group.
Now for the Pirate Books!
Pirate Bob is a fun yet honest book about pirates by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by David Clark. This book shows some of the less attractive parts of piracy – the swords, the friends who are only nice to you because they want your treasure, the greed, and the stealing. Most childrens books on pirates focus only on the fun, lightweight stuff. This book is still a fun read-aloud, but it isn’t filled with illusions Pirate Bob’s nose itches, it means gold is near, and when his nose aches, it is reminding him of when his nose was cut by a cutlass. Pirate Bob and his friends & colleagues on the Pirate ship are searching for their dreams of gold as they search for ships to loot. But they are all waiting until they can bury a treasure and leave piracy, because then they think they will be happy. The story is told in such a way that is still an interesting, fun read that kept all three kids (3, 6, 8 ) interested. And as their mom, I was happy to read a book that didn’t make piracy sound like a good occupation
By Geezers and Galoshes! is a completely different pirate and boating book by Lena Arro, illustrated by Catarina Kruusval. In this story, a little boy named Bubble goes to visit his great uncles who live on an island for a week, but the great uncles have no idea how to entertain a little boy for that long. They build a model Bubble has brought with him, and then follow the direction that says, “for full size, please place model in water”. When they awake, the boat has grown into a full size pirate boat! They load it up, and set off for adventure, just the three of them – with Bubble as the captain. They “steal” treasure from sunbathers and other folks so they will have some “pirate booty”. They turn around and go home when the food runs out, and then dry off the boat so it will be saved for another visit. This book is a brightly colored, silly, and fun book which takes a completely different tack on piracy than Pirate Bob. This book was an absolute favorite, which enthralled all three kids (3, 6, 8 ) and several adults who read aloud to them.
We recommend and enjoyed all 4 books, but think that younger kids will be more interested in the first and last books. The middle books are a little darker in tone, and appeal to a slightly older audience (I’d say 6 and up). Happy reading! We hope you get to do some reading near the water, or that you let the books carry you away to the ocean in your imagination.