cover image Swashby and the Sea

Swashby and the Sea

Beth Ferry, illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-544-70737-5

Swashby, a bushy-bearded, red-nosed old salt, is ready to spend a reclusive retirement (“Salty/ and sandy/ and serene”) by his longtime friend, the sea. “She knew him in and out,/ up and down,/ and better than anyone,” writes Ferry (Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish). When a girl and her grandmother move in next door (“nosy,/ a nuisance,/ annoying”), he starts leaving stern warning messages in the sand. “NO TRESPASSING,” reads the first, “which the sea fiddled with, just a little bit,” turning it into “SING,” which the girl does with gusto. When the sea turns “PLEASE GO AWAY” into “PL—AY,” the child almost coaxes Swashby into being her playmate. But it takes the sea turning dangerous to fully open Swashby’s heart; he rescues the girl and embraces neighborliness, realizing that it can mean “fun,/ and friends,/ and... family.” Caldecott Honoree Martinez-Neal’s acrylic, colored pencil, and graphite drawings teeter between scenes curmudgeonly and sweet, underscoring the story’s tensions. A strong sense of place emerges from the palette, redolent of sunlit sand and sea glass, and the interplay between Swashby and his meddling sea has its magic. Ages 4–7. [em]Author’s agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. Illustrator’s agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel, Full Circle Literary. (May) [/em]