________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 2. . . .September 11, 2009


Back to the Beach.

Heidi Jardine Stoddart.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2009.
32 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-55109702-2

Subject Heading:
Beaches-Juvenile fiction

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.

Review by Vikki VanSickle.

*1/2 /4



Back at the blanket, they say,

"Ick! Yuck! Ewww!"

"Can we keep it?" I ask

Sam continues to chew.

"We can't take it that far

From the ocean tide's reach.

There's no room in the car.

Take it back to the beach!"


This poorly illustrated summer story consists of Gus and his dog Sam exploring the beach and bringing treasures back to a beach blanket where a couple (who, we assume, are Gus's parents, though they are only referred to as "they" throughout the text) continually tell Gus to take his treasures back to the beach. At the end, they relent and allow Gus and Sam to bring home one treasure each.

internal art     The refrain, "We can't take it that far /from the ocean tide's reach, / There's no room in the car. / Take it back to the beach" is repeated at the end of a rhymed section that occurs each time Gus and Sam present a new treasure to the mysterious adults on the beach blanket. The rhyme in these sections feels clunky and awkward. It would have been a stronger choice to forego the rhyme completely. As it stands, it is jarring and weakens the text which is otherwise written in descriptive prose.

      Furthermore, the justification for not bringing the treasures home is unclear. The line, "We can't take it that far/ from the ocean tide's reach," seems to suggest an ecological reason for leaving the treasures behind, perhaps not wanting to upset the ecosystem of the beach. But then this statement is directly followed with "There's no room in the car, / take it back to the beach" which suggests that it is for spatial reasons that Gus must return his treasures.

      The illustrations are inconsistent. Though Gus talks of pirate ships and adventure, there is no sense of movement or imagination in the accompanying visuals. I would have liked to see more variation, but instead we get a series of full body or close-ups of Gus as viewed by the adults—I wanted to see the beach through Gus's eyes and get a sense of his wonder. The illustrations are disappointingly static.

      As a whole, the book is confusing to read and suffers from amateurish illustrations.

Not Recommended.

Vikki VanSickle holds a Master of Arts in Children's Literature from UBC. She is a bookseller and writer currently living in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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