As my youngest niece prepared to head back to school this week, albeit virtually, I asked her if she was looking forward to the return. Her answer, predictably: “I wish I could have more summer vacation!”

I am sure we can all relate to that sentiment, which is one of the reasons that I found the book Swashby and the Sea so appealing. The book evokes memories of a summertime spent soaking up the sun and sea breeze.

Whether the solitude of a quiet beachfront escape is the ideal or rather a carefree, sunny summer spent frolicking at the beach with family, Swashby and the Sea transports readers there. The book also reminds us, especially during a time of social distancing, that “neighbors could be fun, and friends, and…family” — and that our idea of paradise can be so much more expansive if we are open to the possibilities.

The book’s title character, Captain Swashby, “has lived his life in the sea, by the sea, and with the sea, his oldest friend.” He loves the peace and quiet of retired life at his small seaside home. But when new neighbors move in, Swashby battens down the hatches, determined to avoid them and defend his reclusive ways. He declares that he doesn’t need or want neighbors. His old friend the sea, who knows him better than any, has other plans for the curmudgeonly captain, though.

This lovely tale is written by Beth Ferry and beautifully illustrated by Scottsdale resident Juana Martinez-Neal. The book would be right at home on a back-to-school list for younger readers…and may help that summer vacation vibe linger just a little while longer.

Swashby and the Sea is available at bookstores now, including local independent Changing Hands Bookstore (in Phoenix and Tempe). Or, check out Phoenix Public Library for availability. |CST

Kathryn M. Miller is editor-in chief at CITYSunTimes.

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