Hum and Swish, by Matt Myers
Jamie is a creative little girl spending a day at the beach. As she hums and the waves swish, Jamie uses everything around her to make something new. Grown-ups walk by and offer useless comments like, “Aren’t you clever?” or “What are you making there?” to which Jamie always responds, “I don’t know.” Mom and Dad bring sunblock and juice, and Jamie quietly incorporates them into her art while her dark hair swirls in the sea breeze and the little shore birds keep watch. Eventually, an older woman comes out and sets up her easel, and when Jamie asks her, “What are you making?”, she responds, “I don’t know yet.” So the two artists continue working contentedly side by side.
An ode to the creative process, the oil and acrylic paintings in this picture book convey all of the elements of a summer day at the beach. The waves fairly hiss off the page, and the grit of sand sticks to salty legs. Elderly people, toddlers, and teenagers all stroll by, but Jamie longs for the solitude of her own thoughts. As she sits at the edge of the surf, she thinks, “The sea tells stories, but it doesn’t ask questions.”
Matt Myers is a North Carolina author, and our state has miles and miles of seashore to inspire just such scenes. Although he has illustrated many picture books in the past, Hum and Swish is his first work in which he is both author and illustrator. This lovely, contemplative book has many details to discover, and your little artist may find a soulmate in Jamie.
Sea Glass Summer, by Michelle Houts; illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Young Thomas is spending the summer with his grandmother on a rocky island. She gives him a magnifying glass that had belonged to his grandfather, and Thomas sets out to explore. One of his favorite discoveries is a piece of glass that has been worn smooth by years of polishing in the ocean waves. When Thomas puts it on his night table, he dreams of its former owner and the origin of the broken glass. When it is time to leave the island, Thomas drops the magnifying glass, and the shards fall into the sea. Years later, a little girl visits the island with her Pappaw Tom. Annie finds a piece of sea glass, puts it on the table by her bed, and dreams of a boy named Thomas.
Michelle Houts’ picture book has more text than most, but her story is charming, with a sweet surprise ending. Bagram Ibatoulline uses shimmering sea-glass colors to create a chilly Maine beach, rocky and serene. Thomas wears the rolled-up jeans and high-top sneakers of an earlier time, and his grandmother wears a sweater on a summer day. In the present time, Annie wears pink Crocs. Houts appends a note to say that we now have more concern for the environment than to throw glass into the ocean, but how that also makes sea glass even more rare than it used to be.
Both the author and the illustrator have other notable works, but I first became aware of Ibatoulline in his Christmas picture book, Great Joy, written by the inimitable Kate DiCamillo. Be sure to pick that one up this holiday season, and I dare you to keep a dry eye.
When thinking about summer picture books, I remember fondly the adorable There Might Be Lobsters, by Carolyn Crimi, which I reviewed here. Little dog lovers will find that one tenderly hilarious, as well.
All highly recommended for your salty, sticky, sandy beach babies.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of all of the above. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.