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Review: Three by the Sea by Mini Grey

Three by the Sea
By Mini Grey
Knopf (Random House)
ISBN: 9780224083621
Grades K-2
In Stores

The meddler. We all know one. Leave it to Mini Grey (Traction Man is Here!) and her formidable talents to pull off a picture book that explores this subject with unexpected nuance. Sure the meddler can be bad, but just maybe they provide an opportunity for a bit of self-examination as well.

A black cat, a white dog, and a gray mouse live together on an otherwise uninhabited island. Each animal plays a role in making the partnership work – the dog tends to an unruly garden of buried bones, the mouse cooks a cheesy fondu – every single day, and the cat tends to the house in a manner that amounts to throwing garbage and food scraps out the window. The trio are happy with their arrangement until a fox washes up on shore. This salesman quickly points out the groups flaws in an effort to sell them his Winds of Change products. It isn’t long before the arguing begins. When the mouse sets out on a failed attempt to leave the island, cat and dog come to the rescue and the group agrees it is time for the fox to go.

Nine times out of ten, this story would have ended with the fox hitting the road (or the sea, as it were) and our protagonists realizing they were fine just the way they were, and everything goes back to the way it was. Not this time! Grey concludes the story by showing our heroes taking a sliver of what they learned from their argument, slightly changing their ways for the good of others. This is not common, folks, and a pleasant surprise.

Grey’s jaunty illustrations are interesting at every turn. Details like cracking paint and physical elements (paper, photographs) provide a depth that is welcome, and allows for discoveries during repeat readings.

An excellent look at friendship and the difficult-to-define concept of group dynamics, Three by the Sea will make a solid addition to your collection.

Review copy from publisher

Also reviewed by Waking Brain Cells, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.