Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Houses From the Sea" :: A Picture Book of Seashells Perfect for a Summer Beach Vacation


Houses From the Sea, by Alice Goudey.  Illustrated by Adrienne Adams (1959)

We first discovered this picture book last summer and have just borrowed it from the library again in anticipation of our upcoming vacation to Cape Cod (they have beaches there, I hear).  Houses From the Sea is a story of discovery and appreciation of the treasures that  the tide washes onto the seashore each day.  

images from the 1959 Charles Scribner's Sons edition
A brother and sister spend the day at the shore collecting shells, or "houses from the sea," naming and describing them in an almost lyrical manner.  The text is perfectly complimented by the beautiful illustrations - you can practically hear the gentle waves and the calling seagulls and the ocean breeze.  You can smell the salt water in the air too :) The illustrations look like how I want my to children to remember our days of family adventures and explorations - wholesome, innocent, beautiful, and pleasurable.

It's hard for me to describe what type of book this is.  Houses From the Sea is not a storybook, per se, but it's not a science read either.  It's more like a narration of an iconic childhood pastime that everyone should get to experience at some point in their life - skipping through the surf searching for treasures on a beach untouched by the commercialized frenzy that is "going to the beach" today.  

While not intended to be entirely educational, the book does offer some information about, and the common names of, seashells.  The last few pages include a two-page spread of the labeled shell "collection" and  a brief overview of how shells are formed.  

We have a small shell collection, given to us by family in Florida.  Sorting through it we were able to identify several of the shells mentioned in the book.  I'm looking forward to seeing what we'll be able to add to it from the beaches of Cape Cod!  Perhaps it will only stir up hostile competitive feelings if I offer a prize to the child that finds the best variety...?  It's something to at least consider :)

While reading the book, the text and pictures brought to mind a poem that Aaron had memorized last year... 

The Sea's Treasures
by Daphne Lister

In swept the sea 
With a swirl and a swish, 
It shimmered and whispered, 
"Choose what you wish."

And the sea showed its treasures 
At the edge of the shore, 
Shining bright pebbles 
And shells by the score. 

Long ribbons of seaweed 
That shone gold and red, 
"I'll share them, I'll share,"
The sea softly said. 

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