Book Flight: The Beach

Lots of people call a book that is light and fun and easy to read a “beach read.” But we thought we’d take the term more literally and suggest that everyone in the family actually read a book that takes place at the beach.  What better way to get you in the mood for a family trip to the beach???

Looking for things to do at the beach?  Check out our list of 5 favorite family activities at the beach (you’ll never guess what #1 is!).

A read-aloud for the whole family:

The Penderwicks: A Summer  Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks are a contemporary family:  4 sisters and a Dad who spend their summers at Cape Cod.  When their greedy landlord sells the home they usually rent, they find a replacement vacation home, which turns out to be a charming estate called Arundel.  With its old-fashioned adventures, and family comedic situations, it almost feels like a story from the past.  The characters– Rosalinde, Skye, Jane, and Batty–not to mention the “Boy” of the title, Jeffrey–are well-drawn and the plot line pretty compelling.  There’s also Jeffrey’s snooty mother, Mrs. Tipton and her despicable boyfriend who just wants to send him away to a military academy, the gardener Rosalinde develops a crush on, and of course the Rabbits.  The book is written with humor and understanding of the dynamics of siblings.  Birdsall manages to capture, as few writers do, the lazy magic of a summer evening, whether it’s catching fireflies or baking chocolate chip cookies for neighbors. The writing brings to mind Edward Eager–and more than a passing connection to Little Women (4 sisters, rich boy next door. . .you get the idea).  Winner of the National Book Award, this new title seems to be headed for the Classics list.   Upper elementary children ( grades 3 through 6) could read this on their own; the interest level as a read-aloud, though, will draw in the younger and older kids, and will be fun for the adults reading the book, too!

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For infants and toddlers:

Beach Babies Wear Shades by Michelle Sinclair Coleman, illustrated by Nathalie Dion

The Urban Babies are back to take on the beach, and this adorable board book is a perfect bring along for baby at the beach.  Truly aimed at babies, there isn’t the sly humor of some of the other books in the series, but the simple pictures and statements echo what baby really does at the beach, and makes it easy for the youngest member of the family to get ready for their first summer with a fun beach read.

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For infants and toddlers:

Wave by Suzy Lee

This wordless picture book is a treat, as the simple and beautiful illustrations capture the excitement and wonder of a little girl’s interaction with the ocean’s waves at the beach.  From her wonder at the wave, to the playful taunting of the ocean, to the drenching crash, to the discovery of the shells left behind, to finally the gentle “wave” goodbye, every reader in the family will remember their own favorite times at the beach.  The youngest readers appreciate that they can read the whole book by themselves, older readers still enjoy the pictures and soft humor, and adults will find themselves wishing for framed copies of the illustrations to hang on the walls.

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For toddlers and early readers:

Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies

Everyone loves the beach, even the bats.  They just have to go at night… but they do everything we do at the beach.    The rhymes are funny and delightful, as are all the funny things bats do at the beach- they can’t forget the moon-screen, and for a treat they have some icky bug-mallows roasting in the campfire.  But the real beauty of this book is in the gorgeous illustrations- darkly lovely, but with humorous details and sweetly furry little bat faces that draw you in.  Don’t miss Bats in the Library, and wait with us in anticipation of the September release of Bats at the Ballgame!

For toddlers and early readers:

Ladybug Girl at the Beach by David Soman and Jacky Davis

Intrepid Ladybug Girl fears nothing!  But when she gets to the ocean for the first time, it does seem a little big.  And a bit roaring and noisy.  But that’s ok.  She didn’t really want to swim.  She and Bingo just wanted to build sandcastles and go for walks and eat ice cream.  Until it seems like there might be a job for Ladybug Girl, and it just might help her overcome her fear…  Not only will kids love having more adventures of Ladybug Girl to read, it’s reassuring to see that other kids (and even superheroes) can be afraid of new things.  And parents will like some of Ladybug Girl’s thoughts- like her acknowledgment that sometimes Mamas know exactly what to do (when they agree that it’s a double scoop of ice cream kind of day!).  If this is your introduction to Ladybug Girl, you’re in for a treat.  There are two other books (and a board book for younger readers) in the series– so far!

For early adolescence and young adults:

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

Though this is technically the fourth book in the Austin Family Series, it can stand alone as a beautiful and sensitive book that deals with coming of age, friendship, family and death.  Fifteen-year-old Vicky is caught in between in every area of her life.  She is returning to her small hometown after spending a year living in New York.  She is on the cusp of adulthood, yet retains one foot firmly in childhood (and knows it).  She is caught between three boys.  And toughest of all, she is facing what she knows will be her last summer with her beloved Grandfather, who is dying.  Helping her cope is her grounded family, her poetry, her blossoming friendship(s) and her new-found ability to commune with the dolphins.  Starting with Meet the Austins (the first book in the series) is probably a good idea, and that book also makes for a wonderful family read-aloud.  But read as part of the series or alone, this book is not to be missed.

For  young adults and adults:

On Folly Beach by Karen White

This one has it all:iIt’s historical fiction with an added story about a contemporary heroine; it’s got  romance, mystery, love, war, tragedy, and grappling with difficult family relationships.  And it’s set at the beach!  Not just any beach, but Folly Beach, South Carolina, an intriguing  coastal town that has had to rebuild after hurricanes and cope with the effects of war on the home front, whether it’s World War II or the invasion of Afghanistan.  The two stories set 60 years apart both take place at Folly Beach.  Maggie, the central character in the 1940’s grows up in Folly Beach and treasures her coastal setting, knowing it intimately and savoring it.  Emmy, our 21st century heroine, arrives to run a bookstore in this now-tourist destination–and it’s her first visit to the ocean.  Karen White’s prose helps experience the sights, sounds, and senses of the beach as Emmy encounters it daily, growing to appreciate the subtle changes.  This is a perfect summer read, with an intriguing and mysterious plot, and great characters.  Nancy Drew afficiandos will appreciate the many references to Nancy Drew and particular episodes and book titles.  A love of literature, books, and bookstores is central to both stories.  What could be better for a beach read?

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Other Beachy-fun reads:

Walter the Farting Dog Banned from the Beach by William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray, Elizabeth Gundy, and Audrey Coleman

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold (For our review of this book, see Building Your Classic Library for Nursery and Pre-school Children)

At the Beach by Huy Voun Lee (For our review of this book, see Many Languages, Many Alphabets )

Flotsam by David Wiesner

Beach by Elisha Cooper

The Long Secret (Harriet the Spy) by Louise Fitzhugh

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Literature to the rescue:  As a side note, if anyone in your family has an aversion to sunscreen, a couple of books have been of real help with my toddlers. (Though they haven’t resonated as well with my husband…) When the kids make a stink about slathering on the goop, we re-read Olivia and George and Martha Encore.  In each, the heroine gets a painful looking sunburn, and my kids have learned to chorus, “Martha got a sunburn, and Olivia got a sunburn, because they didn’t listen to their Mommies, and they didn’t put on sunscreen!” – Meghan

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