Beside the Sea (Melrose and Croc) by Emma Chichester-Clark
|Beside the Sea (Melrose and Croc) by Emma Chichester-Clark
|Category: For Sharing
|Reviewer: Magda Healey
|Summary: Refreshing, summery and breezy, with washed-out yellows and blues anticipating the summer, this simple and delightful picture book will entertain and playfully explore friendships with young children around 3-4 years old.
|Date: April 2007
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Melrose and Croc met one lonely Christmas and turned the loneliness into the magic of friendship. Beside the Sea continues the theme of friendship, as Croc is cross for some unexplained reason and is not talking to Melrose. Melrose draws him out of his crossness by asking guessing-game type questions, and as they go out and then play at the beach, the guessing-game continues.
As usual with Emma Chichester Clark, the instantly recognisable illustrations are clear, vivid and very appealing to children without annoying the adult. Beside the Sea has a very summery feeling, clean, airy and refreshing. The slightly washed-out yellows and blues work really well in evoking the atmosphere of some kind of fantasy ideal resort, where, despite palm trees growing on the promenade and the beach full of loungers and parasols, it doesn't seem sweltering hot, and where, despite the sun shining and people populating the streets, the beach is empty and all for Melrose's and Croc's play. The type, even though seriffed, has a clean elegance about it too, though I doubt children will notice.
The text itself is very simple, simpler than in Melrose and Croc: Together at Christmas for example. It is a series of guessing-game questions which provide the backdrop of the story which is essentially told via the pictures. The questions are playful and sometimes cheeky, and consist of typical banter one might find between a parent and a child or between friends. The pictures are funny, and of course, the little children will delight in answering the questions themselves.
The personalities of the big yellow dog and the little green Croc are well defined, with Melrose the dog being closer to the parent figure, and Croc being closer to a child one. Neither of them is perfect, but they are friends and they know the value of their friendship. For parents who like to have a message or a topical theme with their picture books, Beside the Sea provides ample material for a discussion of friendship, what friends do, how they can and should relate to each other and why it's good to have them.
As such, it will be most suitable from about 3 years of age, when children start to play with rather than next to their peers and develop first friendships and with that, the need to work our the rules for conducting this new and difficult kind of relationship. Most 5-year-olds will be probably beyond this one, though they are bound to enjoy a sneaky peek when a younger sibling gets treated to Beside the Sea. Some children beginning to learn to read might find this picture book a good practice - and will feel rather happy that they have read a whole real story as my daughter did (for some reason the ones she brings from school don't seem to count as proper, real stories).
I have got a confession to make: I really like the world in which Melrose and Croc live. It looks like a rather nostalgically classy mixture of the Mediterranean and maybe Cornwall, and it has beaches empty of people when it's warm enough to swim. I want to go and live there! Recommended.
Thanks to HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks for reminding us that the summer is on its way. You might also enjoy Bears Don't Read! by Emma Chichester Clark.
You can read more book reviews or buy Beside the Sea (Melrose and Croc) by Emma Chichester-Clark at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Beside the Sea (Melrose and Croc) by Emma Chichester-Clark at Amazon.com.
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