What do you think of when someone mentions Australia? Odds are, tanned surfers and beautiful sandy beaches are among the first images that pop into your mind (and great white sharks, though maybe that’s just me).
At the Beach by Roland Harvey celebrates the sunny, sandy joys of an Aussie day at the beach. When a family sets off for a trip to Crabby Spit, they promise Grandma that they’ll write. What follows is a series of postcards that capture the pleasures of a family vacation – swimming, paddling, surfing, and more.
Each illustration is highly detailed, with plenty of little images for kids to discover and explore. In the spirit of books like Where’s Waldo? (and one of my personal favourites, Super Happy Magic Forest), there’s a lot of replay value in At the Beach, as kids can pour over each spread and explore all the little details and images.
Picture books like this are not only a delight to explore, they also provide great insight into Australian culture and traditions. The beach is such an important part of Australian culture – to quote the Australian government;
Most of Australia’s population lives close to the coastline and the beach has long occupied a special place in the Australian identity. The Australian coastline is where three of the world’s great ocean’s meet: the Pacific, Indian and Southern oceans. The beach is also a place where people from all over the world meet, mix and live….
There are no privately-owned beaches in Australia – beaches are public places for all to enjoy. Australians make use of the coast as a destination for relaxation and fun. Many people live close enough to a beach to visit regularly, and others use the beach for annual holidays. Popular destinations range from crowded city beaches and popular holiday spots, to quieter beaches located in coastal national parks.
Some people go to the beach simply for the sun and surf. Others go to sail, parasail, fish, snorkel, scuba dive and beach comb. Coastal sight-seeing is a very popular pursuit for Australians and international tourists as there are many scenic coastal drives with well appointed lookouts.
Beaches around the country attract large crowds for celebrations such as New Year’s Eve and Australia Day. City beaches such as Manly in Sydney and Glenelg in Adelaide provide entertainment and fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and on Australia Day many beaches host citizenship ceremonies and provide family entertainment. It has become traditional for international visitors who are in Sydney at Christmas time to go to Bondi Beach where up to 40,000 people visit on Christmas Day.
Many international visitors spend time at some of Australia’s famous beaches such as Bondi and Manly in Sydney, St Kilda in Melbourne, Surfers Paradise on the Queensland Gold Coast, Cottesloe in Perth, and Glenelg in Adelaide.
I love the fact that there are no privately-owned beaches in Australia, which allows everyone to explore, enjoy and appreciate the stunning natural beauty of the country’s coastline. Like Canadians and forests, Australians are tied to their beaches and all that they symbolize, and stories like At the Beach allow those of us in other hemispheres to vicariously explore these natural elements as well.
Roland Harvey is a best-selling, award-winning children’s book author and illustrator based in Melbourne.