My family took me to the beach for the first time as a baby. My parents commented about it later, “You thought the beach was wonderful! You tried to eat everything on it.” At the end of the day, when my parents were packing up the car, I started to cry. My diaper was dry, I refused a bottle, and I wasn’t hurt. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Finally, they put me back down on the sand… and I stopped crying. Today, when our family isn’t at the beach, often we’re reading about the shore. Below are some of our beach favorites. I’d love to hear about yours!
Our favorite book about visiting the beach is a Rupert Bear book I read as a child, Mary Tourtel’s Rupert at the Seaside. A compilation of 1930s comic strips from the British newspaper The Daily Express, the book’s main story is a cautionary tale about what happens when you get separated from your family at the seaside. Parental freak outs! Smuggler’s caves! Amusement parks! Pick up a Rupert Bear book and sooner or later you’ll be at the beach on the family’s annual vacation. Rupert’s seaside adventures over the past ninety years have left him on friendly terms with Neptune, mer-people, and all manner of other sea creatures. This makes for adventurous reading and a long-standing question about Mrs. Bear’s tranquilizer dependence.
Rupert the Bear books are nearly unique in literature because they can be read in three ways: via the pictures, via the text, or via the rhyming lines of poetry under each picture. Our other favorite beach vacation book, Dennis Nolan’s Sea of Dreams, contains no text. In the book, a young girl builds an elaborate sandcastle. After she leaves for the day and the tide starts to come in, a light comes on in the castle. Look closely—you can see the worried little inhabitants of the castle! Will they make it to safety before the waves erode the castle?
Author/illustrator David Wiesner makes a specialty out of beautifully illustrated wordless books. Our family loves his alien visitation book Mr. Wuffles!, but my personal favorite is his beach combing book Flotsam. If you read this book, you will, like me, vow to spend the rest of your life looking for a magical camera at the tideline.
No camera yet, but I have found lots of other interesting sea life on the beaches in our area. Last summer, we read Beachcombing: Exploring the Seashore, by Jim Arnosky, a kid-level guide to great beach finds. Although he researched this book in the Florida Keys, the search tips he gives will work anywhere. I’m keeping an eye out for turtles and turtle eggs after many, many reads of The Voyage of Turtle Rex, by Kurt Cyrus. The turtle in this book hatches on a prehistoric beach, but among the pterodactyls and pleiosaurs walks a familiar sight from the beach we visit today—horseshoe crabs!
We identify our beach finds with the help of the wonderful guides published by Folding Guides. The company publishes guides in many different formats. We pack a folding laminated brochure Shells of the New England Coast guide in our beach bag, but my in-laws hung the framed poster version in their bathroom. You can also get notecards and books. I also keep a copy of Golden Books’ Seashores in the car—it’s authoritative, but its small size makes it perfect for Junior and his friends to read in the back seat. You might also look for the Dorling Kinderley books Shell and Seashore. Both feature beautiful illustrations to spur beachcombers to action!
All of these beach visits have gotten Junior curious about the ocean: back at home, one of his favorite bedtime reads is I Wonder Why the Sea Is Salty: and Other Questions About the Oceans, by Anita Ganeri from the I Wonder Why series. I’ll cover more ocean reads in another post—because I have to get ready for our next trip!