Farewell to Summer

September 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

"Beach Feet" by Kiyomi & Konagaya & Masamitsu SaitoI have admittedly failed in the creation of baby books for my children. JP’s baby book never got past the “birth story” page, and Emily’s never began at all. But photos—well, on that front I have delivered. And there’s something else I do to celebrate milestones in my kids’ lives: I’ll purchase a picture book that resonates with a particular memory or moment, and then I’ll inscribe it to JP or Emily with an appropriate sentiment.

In our family, this past summer goes down as the summer that Emily finally found her beach feet, so I could not resist buying Kiyomi Konagaya’s new Beach Feet (Ages 2-4) when I came across it at a bookstore in Cape Cod. For Emily, it has been hard to be the little sister of a boy who would prefer to spend his every waking moment of vacation on the beach. A few months earlier, vacationing in Florida, Emily would hold her hands up and scream “uppy-uppy” as soon as we put her down on the sand. And just a few weeks prior to our vacation on the Cape, while we were at my grandmother’s lake house, she would tolerate the feel of sand on her bare feet for only a few minutes at a time, still too tentative to embrace the beach as her playground.

And then something magical happened: our first day on the Cape, she took off across the sand, watering can in hand; she walked straight up to the edge of the water and let the ripples lap across her toes. In one moment, her enthusiasm for the beach caught up to that of her brother, and there was no turning back.

Beach Feet captures this same delight—that of a toddler exploring the beach through its multitude of textures. A little boy kicks off his flip flops and then runs quickly to the water because the sand is burning hot (“Ow! Ow! Ow!”).  The sand by the water feels “Ahhh…Cool and soft.” But then—“Hmmm, what’s this? I’ve stepped on something hard. Look! I’ve found a shell.” And my favorite part: “Swoosh,” as a wave goes in and out, “taking the sand with it” and “tick[ling] my toes!”

At the heart of this book with its simple, straightforward phrases are evocative sketches, rendered in pastels and watercolors by Japanese artist Masamitsu Saito. The hurried lines and blurred edges of the pictures lend a transcendent quality to the story, a spot-on depiction of the carefree spirit of summer. But the best part are the ten toes on every page: curling into the sinking sand, tip-toe touching the shallow bottom, or simply stretched out and up while lying in the sun.

“To our Emily, who found her Beach Feet in August of 2012 and left her footprints all over the beaches of Cape Cod. With love, Mommy and Daddy.”


Other Favorites for Remembering the Beach all Year Long:
The Seashore Book, by Charlotte Zolotow & Wendell Minor (Ages 3-6)
Beach, by Elisha Cooper (Ages 4-8)
Hello, Ocean, by Pam Munoz Ryan & Mark Astrella (Ages 4-8)

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