Imagine a sandcastle big enough to hold an ice-skating rink, a greenhouse, a dinosaur skeleton, and galas for kings and queens.
A small child at the edge of the ocean begins a project. “I love building castles in the sand. So I built a sandcastle,” explains the narrator. The visual story frame of an outing to a jam-packed beach doesn’t quite offer a nonfantasy opening: Careful perusal reveals a bed, an elephant, a mummy, and an igloo among the multitudinous, tiny-figured human beachgoers. Soon the quiet child’s golden sandcastle rises up off the top of the page. Fine, light brown lines detail the castle’s architectural features; the child balances delicately atop a turret as the castle reaches eight times the protagonist’s height, then stands inside the castle, gazing out windows that vividly show the real ocean outside. Kings and queens arrive to feast and dance. Everything’s glamorous and copacetic until, suddenly, the sand itself is a problem. It’s in the royal almond strudel. It’s in the armor of sobbing knights. It’s in a king’s fig-milk bath. Everyone’s angry. So the calm builder takes rambunctious action, bringing sand, water, and mood dramatically full circle. Tsarfati’s huge cast is happily multiracial and multinational (the protagonist is paper-white), but some of the diverse portrayals unfortunately rely on cultural stereotypes.
Delightfully fanciful, with copious funny details to pore over. (Picture book. 3-8)