Magic Beach, by Alison Lester

At our beach,
at our magic beach,
we swim in the sparkling sea,
surfing and splashing
and jumping the waves
shrieking and laughing with glee.

Australians young and old love the beach and, for children, a trip to the beach can be magical. Alison Lester’s classic picture book captures the essence of that magic with lyrical text and delightfully detailed illustrations.

Especially captivating is the use of juxtaposed images, which shows the ‘real’ beach on one page and the imagined beach on the next. So, while the children play at building sandcastles, the next page shows the castle complete with drawbridge and fiery dragon, as a scene of much drama. Whilst adults are present on many of the pages, the children’s adventures stem from their own initiatives and imaginations, so that the book is a celebration of that imagination.

Lester’s illustrations are filled with detail. As the family walk on the beach on an overcast day, gulls fly, a ship crusies on the horizon and pieces of driftwood poke out of pockets. The illustrations of the ‘real’ beach spread across a page and a half, with the text against a white backgound on the remaining space, while the ‘magic’ beach scenes are on one page only, within a circle which feels like a telescope view or perhaps a dream cloud, with the text on the opposite page. Borders around each double page spread highlight details from the illustrations – shells, driftwood and feathers around the above-mentioned walking scene, fishing gear around a fishing scene and so on.

Magic Beach was first published in 1990 and has sold 125 000 copies. To celebrate that fact, the book has been rereleased with a cover with sparkling details, which will delight young readers.

Through her magical mix of words and pictures, Lester reminds us that all beaches hold magic.

Magic beach, by ALison Lester
Allen & Unwin, 1990, this edition 2004