Fun and Fantasy on the Beach
by Huguette Castaneda

"Grandma knowing the secrets of the sea, tells her granddaughter, 'if the sea wants to give you more, she will.'"

The enthusiastic young Mariella visits her grandmother's beach house and is fascinated by the sand and the surf. For her part, Grandma shares her reverence for the ocean and the beach and teaches Mariella how to search for treasures like shells and seaweed early in the morning. Though Mariella is initially skeptical of waking up so early just to go looking for gifts, she quickly learns from her grandma the same habits and gratitude as the pair discover all kinds of interesting items as they enjoy the early morning together. Soon Mariella begins to find strange things that pique her curiosity, glittering stones that seem to magically resonate with her and show her fantastic sights or take her to amazing places she could have never imagined before.

One after another, Mariella discovers a stone for every color of the rainbow, each having a different magical effect, and her enthusiasm for the experience is balanced only by the reverence that her grandmother has taught Mariella. This is to clean up any garbage that might harm marine life and always say thank you to the mysterious waters. Together, the two share a very special vacation, and they learn to cherish those memories and commemorate the time through scrapbooking and photography. Eventually, Mariella has to return home to her parents, but she is filled with love for her grandmother and wonderment at the experience that the two enjoyed together. Though she is sad to leave, she knows that another trip will bring them together and that they will continue to share adventures.

Illustrated with warm, summery pastels and written with a lot of imagination and respect, this book brings to mind the warm breeze of summertime and the soft lapping of waves. The amount of love shared between grandmother and grandchild, and the values and respect passed down throughout their time together, is a wholesome and valuable teaching that should hold meaning to all parents and children. The morals and message in this story are more shown than spelled out but not in a way that cheapens them. Rather, it allows them to be absorbed more naturally, as readers internalize the good feelings and understand where they are coming from. It is up to each reader to consider and reflect on the story and its characters and also from where their love and respect for others is created.

The mystical elements of the book surrounding the strange stones and the magical effects that Mariella discovers through them are left subtly unexplained, allowing the reader's imagination to take over. The illustrations that coincide with each page of text do a great job of capturing the details of life on the beach as well as the mythical creatures and strange lands that Mariella visits after each new gift from the sea. The entire experience of reading this book or sharing it with a loved one fosters that same closeness that the characters share and provides a mini-vacation as well, hopefully with plenty of memories and things to discuss after the story ends.

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