Gretchen Over the Beach by R.W. Alley

Gretchen Over the Beach by R.W. Alley
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

On a breezy summer day, Gretchen and her family head to the ocean. Gretchen wants to swim with her older brothers and sister, but everyone ignores her. When the wind steals her new sun hat, she catches it by its ribbon and is lifted into the sky, far, far above the beach, where a friendly seagull is happy to play. This ode to imagination is one of four small books each featuring a different sibling and season, created by children’s book veteran R. W. Alley.

Who wouldn’t want to enjoy the beach on a nice day?

Gretchen was such a playful and spunky kid. No matter what happened to her, she always kept a positive attitude as she continued to try to enjoy her surroundings. I giggled at some of the solutions she came up with for her problems. She certainly gave her options a lot of thought before she decided how she wanted to respond to the disappointments of the first few scenes.

I didn’t like the way Gretchen’s parent and three older siblings ignored her repeatedly during their relaxing day at the beach. None of them made any effort at all to include her in their plans no matter how often she asked. While I understand the need for family members to spend some time apart doing their own thing, it felt unkind to me to see her brushed aside so many times when she was clearly yearning for positive attention. I would worry a little about it setting the wrong precedent for some families that are already trying to figure out how to include a preschooler in the exciting plans of their older brothers or sisters.

With that being said, I appreciated the emphasis on imaginative play and making your own fun in a tricky situation. Gretchen found so many creative ways to amuse herself with all sorts of ordinary items that can be found on many beaches. Sometimes she stretched the boundaries of what those items are capable of so far that this almost felt like a fairy tale! She had a wonderful imagination that was clearly being used to its full effect.

Gretchen Over the Beach was a thought-provoking read.

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