Down Under the Pier

down under the pier

There’s lots of fun to be had up on the beach pier, but it’s down underneath where the true—and totally free—magic happens

There’s lots of fun to be had up on the pier—the Ferris wheel, the rollercoaster, Skee-Ball and Whac-A-Mole, cotton candy, copper coins, the carousel. But it’s down under the pier, at low tide, where the real magic can be found. The best part? It’s free. Nell Beckerman’s poetic text and deep love of the intertidal zone, and Rachell Sumpter’s dreamy, “endless summer” art make this the perfect beach book.---from the publisher

32 pages                        978-1-944903-86-2                   Ages 4-8

Keywords:  beach, pier, amusement park, fun, summer, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, 8 year old


"Rock me on the water

I’ll get down to the sea somehow”

-- Jackson Browne (1971)

“Our pockets empty, quarters spent.

Is the fun all done? Maybe...for some.

They don’t know what we know--

To slip down the stairs when the tide is low,

away from it all,

where almost nobody goes,

Do we dare?

Down under the pier,

It’s dark and cool.

We inhale sea spray

and squish slimy sand through toes.

Goose bumps on sun-kissed skin”

DOWN UNDER THE PIER begins and concludes with some of the most beautiful endpapers I’ve ever seen. At the front of the book, we look out through the pier’s pilings toward a hazy, dawn sky. At the back, we look through the same pilings at a magnificent sunset.

In between, we spend a day with a boisterous quartet of young friends who visit the Santa Monica Pier. They begin their fun amidst the amusements, riding the Ferris wheel, the roller coaster, and the carousel; eating cotton candy; and winning toys. But then, their money spent, they head down under the pier.

Thanks to illustrator Rachell Sumpter’s stunning paint-and-pastel illustrations; the sea plants and sea creatures we encounter in the intertidal zone beneath the pier look almost like jewels spilled from a treasure chest.

“Mussels, barnacles, sea stars,

and anemones festoon a forest of pilings.

We look

and wonder..

Is it alive?

Will it bite?

Will it pinch?

Will it pierce?

Will it do anything at

all if we just gently

poke it?”

The four children frolic and explore beneath the pier and along the beach during the low tide. Chasing seabirds; collecting seashells; fooling around with seaweed; their tale concluding as the sun sets over the Pacific.

Some of my earliest memories involve the seashore. I couldn’t help but smell the seaweed and feel the salt drying on my skin as I watched these engaging young characters goofing around in the sand and muck.

The lyrical story concludes with an illustrated spread explaining “What Can You Find Down Under the Pier?”

In this lovely book about the wonders of the seashore, a wonderful time is had by all.

Richie Partington, MLIS

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