Above: opening spread from Clay Carmichael’s Bear at the Beach.
Several years ago, my friend Elena held out the book Bear at the Beach by Clay Carmichael and said: “This is a Ruthie book. You need to read this.” And boy was she right. Ms. Carmichael has an incredibly gentle touch when addressing difficult emotions for young readers.
Bear longs for a father. He sets out asking different sea creatures if they’ve seen his father. Each time a creature asks Bear what his father is like, it brings Bear closer to finding what he needs and perhaps already has.
The illustrations are composed of very few lines and light watercolor. The spareness is grand; it sets the tone, making the reader feel safe to address these complex emotions in such a beautiful world. I appreciate her use of negative space, which, whatever is drawn or not drawn, is intrinsic to each illustration (see opening spread below). There are two other Bear books in the series, both equally as thoughtfully written and well-illustrated. I’m a huge fan of her work and am excited for her new book coming out this summer,entitled Brother, Brother.
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