Swashby and the Sea

Here’s a new picture book that’s really won my heart with it’s word play, timely message, and irresistible illustrations! Author Beth Ferry and illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal have created an endearing and humorous story about not getting what you want, but rather, what you need. Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Congratulations to the winner of WATERCRESS from Andrea Wang – Danielle Hammelef!

Swashby and the Sea-9780544707375


Title: Swashby and the Sea

Written by: Beth Ferry

Illustrated by: Juana Martinez-Neal

HMH 2020, fiction

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/topics: belonging, connection, friendship



Captain Swashby loved the sea.

The sea and he had been friends for a long, long time.

She knew him in and out,

up and down,

and better than anyone.


Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene.

One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them.

When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?

This hilarious picture book will keep emerging readers laughing, and the message-related mishaps in the story create an opportunity for spelling and sounding out new words while learning from home!


Activities and Resources:

Word Fun: What messages would you write in the sand when you feel grumpy? Share them with a partner and see if they can find something positive to spell with your letters.

Name Game: Write your full name. How many new words can you make using the letters in your name?

How To: Swashby gives the girl advice on building a sandcastle. If you’ve built a sandcastle, write instructions for the girl. If you haven’t built a “castle” on the beach, describe how to build a castle with other materials.

Make a Wish: The girl makes a wish with the starfish. What wish would you make? What other things can you “wish upon”? Share “wish” traditions from your family or culture, or ideas you’ve heard about.


Why I like this book:

The idea that others may know what we need better than we do plays out perfectly in this book.  The name on Swashby’s boat says it all—“El Recluso.” He’s a man who wants to be left alone and undisturbed. Swashby leaves messages in the sand to repel his new neighbors, but the wise sea “fiddles” with his words and creates something new. This creative play with words tickled my inner word nerd. Genius! So fun! AND the illustrations are purely irresistible! I am such a fan of Juana Martinez-Neal’s work! We all might be feeling some of Swashby’s grumpiness these days with pandemic isolation. This book is a great reminder that we all have something to give, and we all need personal connection and can benefit from opening our hearts to others.


Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.


9 thoughts on “Swashby and the Sea

  1. I have a feeling that this book will become a new classic. I’ve reread it several times already and always find something new to love about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have not read this book, But after your wonderful review, I will be checking it out. I like the the friendly humor between the girl and the grumpy old man — who sounds like he needs a good friend. Will be looking for this book! Like to share unusual stories with my grandchildren. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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