cover image Magic Beach

Magic Beach

Crockett Johnson, . . Front Street, $18.95 (60pp) ISBN 978-1-932425-27-7

The publication of Johnson's (Harold and the Purple Crayon ) deceptively simple story marks the debut appearance of this work in precisely the way Johnson conceived of it. (A version was published in 1965 as Castles in the Sand with illustrations by Betty Fraser.) Nel discovered the original dummy while researching a biography of the author. The ingenious book design plays up the feel of an artist's sketchbook, and the spare pencil sketches (with even the artist's erasures in evidence) on a beige background give readers the feeling of peering over the artist's shoulder. The drawings introduce young Ann and Ben, outlined in the expressive line that Harold fans will recognize immediately. The children have only to write a word in the sand and the item appears before them, making an intriguing play on the notion of spelling and spells. Musing that such things only happen in "stories about magical kingdoms," the pair proceeds to create just that, conjuring up a king, farms, castles and a horse, on which the monarch rides off to his kingdom, just as the tide rushes in. Maurice Sendak, a close friend of Johnson and his wife, Ruth Krauss, contributes an insightful "appreciation," and the afterword quotes a letter from Johnson describing the tale's debt to the Fisher King. Like all great stories, this one stretches well beyond the pages. All ages. (Nov.)