In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Back to the beach!

Dear Annie,

I've been working Memorial Day weekend at the toy & book store, and I can testify that summer is definitely here.  Outdoors it's disgustingly sticky, and indoors sales of water guns, wading pools and swimming goggles are booming.

So even though we've gone to the ocean more than once (one, two, three, four, five times at least!),  I thought I might add a few more titles to our beach bag.

One of the prolific Robert Munsch's (one, two) more recent books,
The Sand Castle Contest
, continues his wacky streak.  Matthew and his family go to a beach where a sand castle contest is taking place.  In the background, we see people building sand versions of Big Ben, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Capitol, and more.  He meets Kalita, who is making a kid-size sand castle, and a sand dog.  He builds a wildly realistic sand house, with rooms and furniture.  Two different judges tell him to remove the house.
   "This is my sand house, said Matthew.  "I made it for the sand contest."
   "HA!" said the judge.  "I know a real house when I see one, and there are no real houses allowed on the beach!"
   She went into the bedroom and looked at the sand bed.
   She went into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and looked at the sand apples and the sand celery and the sand cartons of milk.  Then she said, "Little boy, you've got to get this house off the beach."
   "This is my sand house, said Matthew, "and I am going to prove it"
   "HA!" said the judges.
Matthew finally proves it by kicking a corner of the house, at which point it collapses into a pile of sand, and he wins the contest.  In the meantime, Kalita's  sand dog has become real, and all are satisfied.  Part of what makes Munsch's stories work so well is his strategic use of repetition.  Love it.

Then there's Traction Man, a much-put-upon square-jawed action figure created by Mini Grey.  In his third adventure,
Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey
, he and his sidekick Scrubbing Brush go to the beach with their boy.  They explore a Rockpool -- "Traction Man is wearing his Squid-Proof Scuba Suit, Lightweight Shorts and Aquatic Air Tanks."  It's hard to do justice to Traction Man's manly humorlessness and the complete silliness of his plots.  Traction Man ends up grabbed by a dog and dropped near the Dollies' Castle.  The front endpaper has already introduced Beachtime Brenda, one of the Dollies:
"More Raspberry Ripple, Traction Man?"
"Thank you, Ladies, but no.  One scoop is plenty."
"You can stay in our castle FOREVER!"
"Somehow, Scrubbing Brush, we must escape."
Before they can, however, the dog comes back and destroys the Dollies' Castle, seriously rumpling all in the process.  Traction Man chivalrously offers to rebuild, but they all end up working on another project:
Traction Man, Scrubbing Brush and the Dollies are digging an exploration hole to the Center of the Earth.
   (The Dollies are wearing Safety Jackets, Excavation Shorts and Cave Helmets borrowed from Traction Man.)
   Tomorrow they are all going to go on an expedition to the Mysterious Cave with their own lunch.
   The Dollies have a dinghy . . . and they are all ready for Anything.
Next time: beach chapter books.

Happy summer.



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