Beth Ferry, author. Juana Martinez-Neal, illustrator.

“Sweet and salty”, as the jacket flap says, is the perfect way to describe this seaside story, where the sea herself is a character. The sea is the only friend that salty Captain Swashby has ever known and has ever wanted. Indeed, the sea has provided for Swashby his entire life.

Swashby’s solitary life on the shore is swept away when an exuberant child and her grandmother move in next door. Swashby does not want company and feeds their oatmeal cookies to the gulls. He proceeds to write them pointed messages in the sand. But the sea knows Swasbhy better than he knows himself, and proceeds to ‘fiddle, just a little’. The sea erases some letters in Swashby’s ‘NO TRESPASSING’ message leaving the child with instructions to ‘SING’.

The modified messages continue, and the child’s response to some incite Swashby to teach her some seaside tips. But it’s the sea who, in the end, teaches Swashby that even a salty seaman can be sweetened by friendship.

This story is of the same high calibre of other of Beth Ferry’s picture books, with clever use of language, a sprinkle of humour and loads of heart. Martinez‑Neal’s illustrations in beige and blues make for a perfect seaside palette. The child’s personality swells from the page and the wild and windblown Swashby is what one imagines a salty, and sweet, seaman to be.

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