Allen & Unwin, 2018
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Rae loves the beach and wants to build a sandcastle, one of those magnificent ones you see in books with towers, ramparts, a moat and even a dragon to guard it! With the help of his grandfather, he does just that. But while they eat their fish and chips, the inexorable tide moves closer and closer and Rae is worried that the fortifications will not be enough to keep out the sea. Sadly, they don’t but Rae learns an amazing lesson about the nature of things…
In the author’s dedication he says, “You, me, this book, your breakfast…we’re all made from tiny particles, stuff that has been around since the beginning of time. We’re only borrowing these particles from the enormous universe that made them. Once we’re done with them, the bits that make us will go on to lead many new existences on Earth, and beyond.” So while, on the surface, this could be just a pleasant story about a boy and his grandfather at the beach doing something and experiencing the consequences that so many young readers will resonate with, it could also be an introduction to lessons about matter and atoms and stuff, another one of those topics that little ones find tricky to understand because they can’t see the individual components.
But for me, I found beauty in the words as a way of helping a child cope with the grief of losing a family member or pet – that no matter how a disease might have crept through their body and ultimately stolen it, as the sea does a sandcastle, the person still exists as memories and that a little part of them lives on in each person they touched and influenced in some way. Very philosophical for so early in the morning but a mark of a quality storyteller whose work can touch the reader in many, often unintended, ways.