Book Review: Beach House By Caswell & Bates

The summer is quickly coming to a close as Labor Day approaches, the sun is setting earlier each evening, and schools are awakening with the sounds of children. I know some schools in the U.S. have already begun, for weeks even! But here in the Northeast it seems the majority don’t bid farewell to summer until after Labor Day. This weekend is the last hurrah for the summery adventures.

And this brings to mind a few last beach books to soak up as much sun, swimming, and sand castle building as possible before the chilly weather starts to beckon. One of my favorite new beach books from the summer is this one, which made its debut at the beginning of the summer from Chronicle Books. Written poetically, in a way that almost feels like a sweet favorites list from the beach, this book will have you longing, loving, and reminiscing about long days on the beach. Here is Beach House by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Amy June Bates, 2015.

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The story actually begins a spread before the title page, which I find to be such an interesting choice – speaking to the anticipation of a beach vacation and the effort involved in getting to and waiting for the vacation to begin – just like waiting to get past the title page! The characters are a family of five and they arrive at their beach house in an almost VW bus kind of vehicle. There is so much gear packed within, it is bursting with the excitement of adventure as well.

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While the narrator appears to be a third party outside of the story, it is not for sure. But the story is told of arriving, being forced to unpack before hitting the beach, and then finally reveling in all the beach activities they can squeeze in before snuggling into bed for a rest before it all begins again the next day.

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The poetic text has a marvelous pause to it on each spread as it calls to savor every moment. There is also an excellent rhythm and arc to the text that is subtly felt and appreciated as we move through the emotions and events of the day. I find myself marveling at the amount of editing I’m sure Caswell must have endured to get herself to express all this book encapsulates about the amazing energy, enjoyment, and exhaustion a beach vacation entails.

One of my favorite details to spy are the hints at the tasks and parental moments that are never mentioned directly, but are pictured in the backdrop. The parents requesting help to unload and unpack. The parents pausing once they arrive on the beach to take a deep breath of relief, no doubt. And my favorite, the last spread devoted to the publication information, where the parents and dog can be seen hanging all the wet items of the day on the clothesline in the moonlight. If this isn’t parenthood on vacation, I don’t know what is.

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But my very favorite spread in the whole book, is that last one. It is the final spread of the book, and it is dark, deeply blue, so full of the events of the previous pages, while also wistful of the day to come.

Amy June Bates’ watercolor art is quite fantastic throughout Beach House. Watercolor is a perfect medium for the sea and she uses it masterfully. I love the lines and the lack thereof. There is energy and movement in the art, and there is beauty and calmness too.

The art and text combined are a lovely tribute to the refresh that a beach vacation invites. It is a book beautifully done. Take a vacation with it whenever you can. You will come away dreaming of the warmth of the sun and the salty air.

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