Tuesday, July 30, 2013

At the Seashore, Real and Fictitious

At the Seashore, Real and Fictitious
     I was brought up loving the seashore.  Its intensity of sunshine, foamy waves of cool saltwater, the dunes, the salt sea air in my hair, and the crying gulls of the New Jersey shore, are marked in my memory. This is where I would visit my grandparents for a weekend every summer of my childhood. And this is where one old Kodak slide gives evidence of my very first taste of ice cream - in my father’s arms, in 1960.

     My grandparent’s had a little yellow house on stilts. Their front yard was sand dunes. Beyond the dunes was the Atlantic Ocean. After supper, after a day mostly spent waist high is seawater, my mother took out a large aerosol can and sprayed my sun-toasted arms and legs wet with mosquito repellent (not advised today). Then, I’d wander the dunes in the cool of the evening. (These dunes are off limits today to protect against erosion). I’d listen to the lighthearted birds hidden and at home in the dune grass. Their clear songs would repeat their sounding joy – a joy that matched my own.

Brother and Sister 1963, Bayside

     From my grandparent’s high deck I could see the shinning sea. My grandpa would hand me his heavy binoculars to give me a closer look at the fishing boats that dotted the horizon. Indoors, out of the incessant wind, my grandmother embroidered in the easy chair closest to the picture window so her threads wouldn’t blow away. She would keep the window glass sparkling clean for the sake of the view.

Paul Michel Dupuy (1869-1949)

     All the sensory impressions I have tucked away securely in my imagination of the seashore (for the remainder of my life) came back to me when I read Island of the Blue Dolphins. It is a sensitive tale of realistic fiction. If you haven’t yet read Island of the Blue Dolphins, summer would be a good time to saunter through its pages. It isn’t a long story. I read it in four hours – although not all in one sitting. Yet, it is a square meal that gives you a satisfying feeling when you are done. 

     Off the coast of Los Angeles, California is a small rocky island, San Nicolas. Indians had lived on the island for centuries. When writer, Scott O’Dell learned a bit of history about the island, that a schooner carried an isolated tribe of Indians off the island in 1835, he set out to write a story. He wrote about this real island and the real girl who, the captain reported, jumped off the schooner and into the sea.

     In Island of the Blue Dolphins, the schooner’s white sails had filled. The ship was already moving away. Although the rest of her tribe urged her not to jump, twelve-year-old Karana would not be persuaded. She screamed and broke free from the arms that held her when she discovered her brother was not onboard. She spotted him running along the cliff with a spear in his hands. He was only six-years-old and would be left alone on the island for who knows how long. She must swim to shore. What did she see when she reached him? How did she live on the Island?
     Karana tells the story. She brings the nature, on this lonely little island, to the forefront: wild dogs, “devilfish” (octopi) elephant seals, sea otters, shellfish of various sorts (to eat), seabirds, and more. The setting is exotic but it is Karana that we care about most. She survives isolation with ingenuity, courage, and perseverance. Although a girl is the main character and she retains her feminine nature, boys will like to read how Karana “roughs it” with the loyal company of a dog. And yet in roughing it she lives life to-the-fullest. 
     Island of the Blue Dolphins is literary enough for a high school student. Anyone, junior high up to adult, will find it a sad and beautiful story. 

     Dean photographed our hardcover on the Jersey shore – a couple years back - and I, on the sofa I’m sitting on now with my laptop.  

     For young readers – or for reading aloud – children will find the settings of Time of Wonder and One Morning in Maine, to be light and summery with a bit of adventure. This time we explore the coast of Maine. The visit will be brief but you may find yourself wanting to vacation there each summer. 


        I photographed Mr. McCloskey’s stories outside my parent’s seaside bungalow. They are driving inland to see us next week. Perhaps they’ll bring me another copy of their local newspaper, The Beachcomber.

 The books I chose to feature are linked to Amazon.com.

Comments are welcome,
Karen Andreola 


  1. They sound very interesting books. I've just been reading "God's and Warriors" to my children - dolphins and islands, again, but bronze age Greece!

  2. Your father is quite handsome. You are adorable in his arms and eating I've cream. Thank you for sharing your memories as well as a new book to read!

  3. I love the photos! My young son's favorite book having to do with the sea is "The Abandoned Lighthouse" by Albert Lamb. Nice color pictures, story that teaches about lighthouses and their job in an exciting way, and great story to ask a lot of "what would you do's" about!

  4. Good morning, Karen!

    "Joy to the World" is one of my very favorite songs. It is thrilling to think of the sounding joy that is always being repeated.

    The passage from the book of Job (chapter 38 vs. 7) that speaks of the stars singing always fills me with mystery and longing. There is another one in Psalm 65. Verses 9- 13 are among my favorites. They speak of the joyful, singing creation that responds to God's goodness.

    You've given me something wonderful to think about today. Many thanks!


  5. You evoke the feeling of the beach in your comments. One can feel the breeze and smell the water. It is lovely to remember how much our kids enjoyed those books. I will bring them out for the grand kids. Second generation gentle learning.

  6. I didn't see the ocean until I was in my 30s. :)

    However, my New England born son-in-law and his family vacationed at Cape Cod every summer and they do so now with their kids.

  7. Hello Karen. I really enjoy reading your posts and looking at your pictures. You help me sloooow down and take a moment. I'm going to be ordering Lessons at Blackberry Inn. The outhouse fire story was so funny 8-), from Pocketful of Pinecones. Thank you for encouraging us to look at the "simple" in life.

  8. Dear Karen,

    I have also read and loved all the books you have mentioned in your post. The two by Robert McCloskey are great favorites at our home! My parents have retired down by the South Carolina shore, so all of their children and grandchildren enjoy their seaside visits with them, as well. Thanks for a lovely post!

    Hope you are doing well!

  9. Hi Karen! What an honor to have you stop by my little blog and leave a comment! I like cross-stitching as well but haven't done it in recent years. (Have an unfinished cross-stitch project that's on my list to do for Christmas.) I have heard of your books via Brenda's CTB&M blog, and I'm intrigued! And thanks for sharing about these books. The Country of the Pointed Firs is one of my favorites, so I would probably enjoy your suggestions. I'll be back to peruse your blog! Many blessings to you and yours, Bess

  10. I forgot all about Island of the Blue Dolphins. Definitely going to pull that out to reread to the younger two before summer is over. I love reading your blog

  11. I may of watched a movie once with that title and story,not positive though! Sounds like a great book,I wouldn't mind reading. I love the sea,but have never lived close enough to enjoy it much :( The pictures you shared are great...your first ice cream cone...so cute :) Blessings