At the beach, a child waits for a summer friend to arrive.
The book’s narrator, a young child whose skin color varies from kraft-paper brown to graphite-pencil gray, is waiting for Chicken Smith. Every year, Chicken Smith and his father occupy a cabin near the one the narrator’s family stays in. But this year, Chicken is late, and the narrator waits, shell gift in hand, recalling past summer activities: how Chicken can kick a tennis ball from the porch to the beach and his dog, Jelly, will fetch it, and how they go to the lighthouse with Chicken’s binoculars to look for whales. Regularly interrupting these musings, the narrator’s sister, Mary Ann, keeps urging, “Hey! Look!” but the narrator puts her off. Finally Mary Ann yells, “Just hurry up!” and she dashes to the lighthouse, with the narrator following. “There he is!” shouts Mary Ann, and points—to a whale. “Even with binoculars, Chicken Smith and I never saw one,” relates the narrator. As the poignancy of Chicken’s nonarrival settles in (readers see a “Summer RENTAL” sign on his cabin), Mackintosh deftly delivers a satisfying conclusion as the narrator and Mary Ann begin to bond. Mackintosh’s text perfectly captures the timelessness of childhood summer, and his scribbly illustrations (done in pen, pencil, ink, watercolor, and kraft paper) conjure associations of a child’s project sketchbook, the handcrafted look underscored by the old-fashioned-typewriter typeface.
Just wonderful. (Picture book. 3-8)