Tag Archives: beach

Celebrating a Storybook Year – June

June brought us the first days of summer and so we headed for the beach…figuratively, at least. We explored beach, ocean and sea creature themes in our books this month. We met Jacques Cousteau (the “Manfish”), Marie Tharp (the woman who first mapped the ocean floor), and plenty of other fascinating real life and imaginary characters. We also enjoyed a week of cute and funny books about Fathers’ Day, complete with bear hugs and goofy dad humor.

All-in-all it was a breezy, warm, and engaging month of reading in keeping with the summer season.


Day 165 – Curious George Goes to the Beach

Today, on our figurative summertime trip to the beach, we encountered a familiar and well-loved face: Curious George! As you might expect, in “Curious George Goes to the Beach”, Margaret and H.A. Rey’s inquisitive and kind-hearted little monkey has a blast – thoroughly enjoying all the sights, sounds, and sensations of a brand new experience, and managing to save the day along the way.

george at beachWhen the man with the yellow hat (decked out in a delightfully anachronistic one-piece yellow-striped bathing suit) surprises George with a trip to the beach, George is excited – there are so many new, and curious (!) things to try. His little friend, Betsy, isn’t so sure. Betsy has never been to the beach before, and although she is a good swimmer, she is scared of getting in the ocean. For George, however, it’s time to play! After setting up a blanket and umbrella on the sand, George sets out. He tosses a beach ball, digs in the sand, shakes “hands” with a crab, and even sits in the lifeguard’s special chair…without permission (oops!). Hungry after all his adventures, George returns to the blanket for a snack, but everything he sets out for himself disappears before he can eat it, because: seagulls!

Aha! George has discovered a new game – feed the seagulls. Forgetting about his own hunger, George (with help from Betsy) disburses cookies, cake, crackers and even bread for their sandwiches to the growing flock of birds, until the tide comes in and pulls the basket out to sea. George quickly runs to the lifeguard stand and grabs a float – then he swims out to retrieve the basket, and swims back to find that Betsy has jumped in the water and swum out as well! The picnic basket may now be empty, but Betsy and her grandmother have food to spare – and they are happy to share because George has saved the day once again: Betsy is smiling and enjoying herself – she’s no longer afraid of the ocean!

“Curious George Goes to the Beach” is another charming entry in the Curious George canon. We found ourselves once again grateful that Margaret and H.A. Rey remembered to bring the original Curious George manuscript with them when they fled Paris on homemade bicycles back in 1940. But be forewarned – George has so much fun at the beach that this tale of seaside shenanigans may have you packing up the car and heading out as soon as you have read it!


Day 164 – Out of the Ocean

“My mother says you can ask the ocean to bring you something. If you look, she says, you might find it.” A wooden shoe, a sea turtle skull, pelican feathers, coconuts, and a beam from a sunken ship are just a few of the fascinating (and ultimately “necessary”) things found on the beach in today’s book, “Out of the Ocean” by Debra Frasier. Ms. Frasier’s book, illustrated with a combination of colorful collages and photographs against a sandy backdrop, is a thoughtful and charming tribute to the ocean and all the things it can bring you…if you just remember to look!

oceanMs. Frasier narrates her book from the point of view of a little girl, recounting the treasures she has found on the beach and the conversations she has had with her mother about the ocean. Walking the beach, the narrator has asked for and been presented with all manner of treasures, from sea glass to shark’s teeth to skate eggs…to a wooden shoe – and each time, what she has brought home has turned out to be exactly what she wanted.

Meanwhile, the little girl’s mother asks the ocean for things that are too big to bring home: the sun, silver moonlight, the sound of waves, and sea turtle tracks. “Those things are always there”, the little girl tells her mother, “You just have to look for them.” Laughing, her mother tells her that she discovered the secret: “It’s not the asking, it’s the remembering to look.” Some of the biggest gifts the ocean has to give can be missed or taken for granted, if you forget to look.

We thought “Out of the Ocean” was surprisingly sweet and profound. I particularly enjoyed the line about every discovery turning out to be exactly what the little girl wanted – it made me smile, and reminded me of the old saying that happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. The body of the book makes for a fairly quick read-aloud, but there is also a six-page “Ocean Journal” at the end that is quite informative and worth a read – providing more detail about some of the specific things the author herself has found at the beach. With or without the journal, however, Ms. Frasier has written (and illustrated) a wonderful book that is a great selection for summer-themed reading.


Day 158 – Hattie and the Wild Waves

Another month, another theme, and another wonderful Barbara Cooney book we are able to work into our calendar. For June, we have departed (figuratively) for the beach, and today we came across “Hattie and the Wild Waves”, a beautifully written and illustrated story about a free-spirited little girl named Hattie who is inspired by the wild waves on the beaches of Long Island.hattie

Hattie is the youngest child in a German-American family living on Long Island, presumably around the turn of the century. Hattie’s father is a very successful home-builder, and her parents frequently host big parties for all their German friends and relations. There is plenty of food, including potatoes galore (clouds of mashed kartoffeln), followed by a retreat to the parlor where Mama keeps her two greatest treasures: her rosewood piano and a grand painting called “Cleopatra’s Barge”, a masterpiece by Opa Krippendorf…Hattie’s grandfather. Hattie’s brother Vollie is determined to be a successful businessman alongside his father when he grows up, and her sister Pfiffi has plans to become a beautiful bride. However, when Hattie tells her siblings of her wish to become a painter, they burst out laughing “Dummkopf! Little stupid head! Girls don’t paint houses.” but Hattie is not thinking of houses when she says she wants to be a painter. She is thinking of “…the moon in the sky and the wind in the trees and the wild waves of the ocean.”

With her tiny hands, Hattie is not able to excel at piano (her mother says will never get past The Happy Farmer), her needlework is uneven and her french knots are grimy. Standing still to be fitted for dresses, while her sister preens in the mirror, is particularly trying for restless little Hattie. “Trying to be pretty is a lot of work,” she confides to the cook’s daughter, Little Mouse. What she does love is making pictures – especially during the summer, when Hattie and her family go to their beach house in Far Rockaway. While she is at the beach, Hattie can draw, and wonder what it is that the wild waves are saying. One summer, however, Papa buys a new vacation house called The Oaks – larger and grander than Far Rockaway but nowhere near the beach. Hattie’s siblings, Pfiffi and Vollie are both very excited, but Hattie is unsure. The Oaks is nice; Hattie has a tamed macaw who can fetch tennis balls, and she and Little Mouse can walk arm in arm in the deer park and talk about what they will do when they grow up (Little Mouse will teach and Hattie will paint). But The Oaks isn’t Far Rockaway, and Hattie finds herself wondering: what will the wild waves be saying this summer?

Eventually, Pfiffi is married, Vollie becomes a successful business man, and Papa and Mama and Hattie all go to live in a hotel that Papa has built. Sometimes Hattie can draw, but often (too often) her time is taken up with shopping or playing cards with her mother. One night, however, Hattie sees a woman at the hotel sing her heart out on stage and realizes that it is time for her to paint her heart out. The next morning, a stormy day, Hattie goes to the Art Institute and then to Coney Island. The rides are shut down, but the fortune teller booth is open, and Hattie’s fortune card tells her that she will make beautiful pictures…and then the wild waves crashing on the beach tell her the same. When Hattie tells Mama and Papa what she will do, Mama smiles and says “Just like Opa”…but Hattie replies “no, just like me”.

We love this book, both for the beautiful old-timey illustrations we have come to expect from Ms. Cooney, and for the inspiring nature of the story. Not only does the book remind listeners to be true to themselves, but it stresses the importance of family and paints Hattie’s story against the backdrop of an immigrant family reaping the rewards of their hard work and living out the “American Dream.” After studying German for many years in high school and college, I also enjoyed reading aloud all the German words and phrases that Ms. Cooney worked into the text…it’s an acquired taste, but for those of us who have acquired it…it’s fun!