Bats at the Beach
Written and illustrated by Brian Lies
Houghton Mifflin, $16.00
32 pp.; ISBN: 061855744X
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
A bright full moon proves irresistible to a colony of bats on a warm summer night. Coming out of their daytime hiding places in attics and such, the bats fly out into the night with beach bags full of towels, picnic baskets, blankets, books, yellow swimmies, and of course, moon-tan lotion. The bats are going to the beach.
The bats who take advantage of the moonglow trip to the shore enjoy all manner of "batty" seaside entertainment -- using their wingspans for sailing and surfing, picnicking on skeeter snacks and roasting bug-mallows (imagine marshmallows with legs and wings, ick!), and enjoying a dessert of moths around the incandescent light bulb at the snack bar.
As the sky begins to lighten and the sun comes up, the bats must say goodbye, pack up their things, and head back to the safety of their dark eaves and corners, settling in for pleasant dreams about "moony weather".
The topsy-turvy angle of enjoying the beach by moonlight is whimsical and magical, both in Lies' verse and his acrylic paint artwork. Bats at the Beach makes for an imaginative bedtime story, sure to inspire sweet dreams and creative thinking. Lies' bats have pretend swordfights with abandoned straws, his adorable baby bats wear yellow swim wings, while another bat extends her wings to make like a kite while clutching string held by a beachfront bat-friend.
This beautifully illustrated book is warm and endearing; while the story does take place at night, Lies' moon lends each picture a luminescence that makes the book almost glow from within. The pictures are surprisingly colorful, given the nocturnal nature of the story. Baby bats are seen digging holes, burying their playmates in the sand, snuggling on the laps of the grownups during a bonfire sing-along, and even holding tight to their parents on the flight home. The human-like behavior and soft, cute look of the bats will surely overcome any fear or hesitation kids (or the parents who read Bats at the Beach to them) may have about these creatures of the night.
Bats at the Beach is told through rhyming verse that makes for easy and relaxed reading. The story is mellow enough for naptime or bedtime, yet still engaging to young readers. The narrative is completely bat-specific -- Lies overlooks nothing in his telling of the story, maintaining the magic from cover to cover, and relying on careful word choice to bring the sights and sounds of the beach to his readers.
Humorous in word and art, Lies blends the two together into a captivating fantasy that's sure to please kids, especially those who love activities like going to the beach and big family get-togethers. From giggling at the list of bat-snacks like "crickets, moths, and pickled slugs" to sharing a baby bat's shock as he lets his bat-mallow get too close the bonfire and sees it erupt in flames (good thing Mom's right there…), Lies' Bats at the Beach is gentle fun.
A portion of the book's proceeds will go to support Bat Conservation International.
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