From the Publisher
* "Like all great stories, this one stretches well beyond the pages." --Publishers Weekly, starred review
"[A] sly reflection on the power of words and the line between real and imaginary worlds. . . . The deceptively simple story has undeniable child appeal." --School Library Journal
"Bracketed by two insightful, informative gems for Johnson fans, a two-page 'appreciation' by Maurice Sendak and a four-page afterword on the book’s history by Phillip Nel, this handsome book is clearly aimed at adults as much as children. But whoever the audience, there is magic to be found in the words and sketches of Crockett Johnson." --Booklist
The publication of Johnson's (Harold and the Purple Crayon) deceptively simple story marks the debut appearance of this work in precisely the way Johnson conceived of it. (A version was published in 1965 as Castles in the Sand with illustrations by Betty Fraser.) Nel discovered the original dummy while researching a biography of the author. The ingenious book design plays up the feel of an artist's sketchbook, and the spare pencil sketches (with even the artist's erasures in evidence) on a beige background give readers the feeling of peering over the artist's shoulder. The drawings introduce young Ann and Ben, outlined in the expressive line that Harold fans will recognize immediately. The children have only to write a word in the sand and the item appears before them, making an intriguing play on the notion of spelling and spells. Musing that such things only happen in "stories about magical kingdoms," the pair proceeds to create just that, conjuring up a king, farms, castles and a horse, on which the monarch rides off to his kingdom, just as the tide rushes in. Maurice Sendak, a close friend of Johnson and his wife, Ruth Krauss, contributes an insightful "appreciation," and the afterword quotes a letter from Johnson describing the tale's debt to the Fisher King. Like all great stories, this one stretches well beyond the pages. All ages. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This title, by the author of Harold and the Purple Crayon and other classics, was originally turned down for publication; the text was later published as Castles in the Sand with a different illustrator. The original rough dummy format was rediscovered in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution and beautifully reproduced so that its magic can be appreciated today. Ann and Ben take a walk along the beach. Although Ben says that "letters are just different kinds of marks," when he writes "JAM" in the sand, a dish of jam magically appears. The fantasy continues with a discussion of "story," and the subsequent appearance of many other items, including a magic "spell," a king and kingdom, a rising tide, and a mystic ending. The tan-background squares of the illustrations leave considerable white space, with only some used for the simple lines of the thought-provoking text. Sketchy black lines supply the sea-side setting and delineate the characters. All the essential elements of the visual narrative are there and, although meant only as a sketch of his intent, they are, as Maurice Sendak says in his "Appreciation," "as finished as any illustrations he ever did." The handsomely designed binding suggests the quality of the story along with the care that has brought it back to life. 2005 (orig. text 1956), Front Street/Boyds Mills Press, Ages 4 up.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-First published in 1965 as Castles in the Sand with illustrations by Betty Fraser, Johnson's manuscript resurfaces here, accompanied by his original sketches. Two children, bored on a summer day, wander down to the beach and begin to write in the sand, only to find that the waves wash away their words and replace them with the objects they describe. They continue writing until they have created a magical kingdom complete with forest, castles, and a sad king. With strong allusions to the Fisher King myth, this is a sly reflection on the power of words and the line between real and imaginary worlds. Though the story was "enthusiastically turned down" by many publishers in Johnson's day as too oblique for young audiences, the characters' realizations (e.g., "The king is still there, in the story-.Hoping to get to his throne") are presented in a child-friendly way. The sketchy dummy illustrations, complete with erasure marks, lend a deep realism of their own. Though this package, complete with a foreword by Maurice Sendak and an afterword by Philip Nel, will mostly appeal to children's book aficionados, the deceptively simple story has undeniable child appeal as well.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Issued with revisions in 1965 as Castles in the Sand, with early 60s-ish illustrations by Betty Fraser, this philosophical tale appears here in its original form, beneath Johnson's own rough, expressive sketches-sandwiched between an eloquent appreciation of both author and art by Maurice Sendak, and a publishing history by renowned scholar Philip Nel. Two children, arguing on a beach about whether it's better to read stories or to be in one, discover that writing "JAM," "BREAD," "CANDY" and similar words in the sand brings those very objects ashore with the next wave. Eventually they conjure a "KING" who commands them to leave, just as the waves wash away everything but a large seashell. Off the youngsters go, still holding different views. According to Nel, Johnson's editor Ursula Nordstrom didn't think this was a story for children. As in so much else, she was right-but it does make a handsomely packaged artifact for adult readers of children's literature. (Picture book. Adult)