Let’s hit the beach, shall we?

h1 December 4th, 2006 by jules

Brrrr. It’s cold. So, let’s take a look at two picture books about the splendid seashore that made a bit of a splash (awful pun intended) this year so that your imagination can run away with you and warm you up at least for a moment or two.

beach.gifBeach by Elisha Cooper — Has Elisha Cooper ever even made a bad book? I think not. He is the go-to man for depicting the extraordinary in the ordinary, one of the best examples of this being 2005’s A Good Night Walk — one of my favorite picture books — which was borne of evening walks with Cooper’s infant, fussy-in-the-evenings daughter, seeing and celebrating every, little thing along the way. This is the quality at which he excels and which children inherently possess — quiet, keen, potent powers of observation. In Beach, published in June of this year, he’s at it again, this time bringing us the seashore in vivid detail and without missing any bit of the beach’s brilliance, making even what seems mundane much more marvelous (such as, a woman lathering on sunscreen and reaching for the spot that can’t be reached; crab races in the sand; jumping in the water and forgetting your glasses; dabbing sweat while sunbathing; and ospreys sitting on nearby nests). There is no plot to speak of; it’s a moment-in-time, a day in the life of one coast in which the young and old alike simply enjoy the sand and the water. The text is concise yet lyrical and subtly rhythmic when it needs to be (“Away to the beach! Away to sand and salt water, to rolling dunes and pounding waves”). And Cooper’s signature style and rather impressionistic watercolor illustrations radiate as clearly as the sun on the shore: his small, cartoon-esque, faceless characters, showing a wide variety of body types; his seemingly simple lines and uncluttered double page spreads; and his spot-on composition on each and every page. And what an impressive ability he has to bring color to a page with just one right drop of paint in just one right place. Whether you want to revive your and/or a child’s own memories of the shore, or you want a brief respite from the winter, let Cooper take you there: “Sand is everywhere — between toes and in bathing suits and inside ears. Inside, too, is the motion of the waves, the knowledge of a day well spent, a day to remember when the beach is far away.”

bats-at-the-beach.gifBats at the Beach by Brian Lies — Bats with banjoes at the beach at night? You gotta dig it. With his beautiful illustrations, rendered in acrylics and lovely, lovely dark hues, Lies has brought us a perfect read-aloud in rhyming text, published in May of this year, that remained a New York Times children’s bestseller for at least over twelve weeks, according to Lies’ site. It’s a perfect night for a beach visit (“{t}he rising moon can grow no fatter as sky lights up with gleeful chatter”), so the bats grab their trowels, towels, blankets, banjoes, and buckets and head to the place “where land and foamy ocean meet” to soak their wiggly, mammalian feet. Like with Cooper’s Beach, they revel in it all: feeling warm sand beneath their feet; the moon-tan lotion; playing with toys others left behind; burying friends “from chin to knee, we’re scratchy where no sand should be.” There is much humor and lots of detail for children to spot here with Lies’ host of bat characters (those with a case of entomophobia, such as myself, will want to quickly take in — and then move promptly to the next page, thanks very much — the all-night snack bar, which the bats hit for dessert, and the “bug-mallows” that “toast on slender sticks,” but children will, likely, squeal over this). Lies’ shadowy art still glows with subtle light in just the right spots, such as the coastal campfire with its touches of yellow, as the bats sing and rest and storytell and yawn. Let Lies take you to the beach at night after Cooper shows you its glories during the day.

So . . . enjoy the beach, and don’t forget to bring me a seashell. I’ll be here with my hot cocoa in hand. Ciao.

5 comments to “Let’s hit the beach, shall we?”

  1. Oh good. Beach is fast becoming my favorite underrated picture book of the year. It’s just not on enough lists.

  2. Yes! Beach is good! I love Elisha Cooper’s style – have you seen Dance? Also good.

    This is like the 49th time I’ve seen/heard Bats at the Beach recommended/lauded/loved. I’ve got to get my hands on it soon.

  3. Love both of these books, and not just because I’m a beach lover.

  4. We are heading to Maui next week on family vacation. This book sounds like a perfect fit to fast forward to the vacation mode. Thanks – will try to buy this one for the plane from borders…


  5. […] of author/illustrator Brian Lies, pictured here having dinner with his bat buddy from his popular Bats at the Beach and brand-new Bats at the Library books? I think: precision, rich details, meticulous, and […]

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