Review of Picture Book Three By The Sea by Mini Grey

Three by the Sea
by Mini Grey
Reading Level: Ages 4 and up
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (April 5, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0375867842
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Review copy from publisher

You know when you read a picture book, and the artwork and the writing work beautifully together that they feel almost inseparable? That’s what I experienced when I read, and re-read, Three by the Sea by Mini Grey. The text didn’t tell the entire story–the illustrations told us the rest, and the reader had to look at the illustrations to understand the things that the text didn’t tell us. The text also flowed well and never stumbled, telling the story in an appealing way, and the illustrations were whimsical and drew me in.

In Three By the Sea, three friends–a cat, a mouse, and a dog–all live happily together, each doing their own work to help each other out. But when a fox salesman comes along, he sows discontent and suspicion, and after a big fight and then a crisis, the three friends have to figure out what they mean to each other and how to be happy. And figure it out they do, with a few changes.

I love the way it’s so clear, without telling us outright, that the salesman means no good even though he’s saying he does, and that free is not really free (at least from salesmen). And I also love how Grey suggests that advertisements can make us unhappy by suggesting we need or want things that we don’t actually need or want and were quite happy without. I also took from Three By The Sea that ads and society can push stereotypes on us that don’t fit us at all, and that friendship and love can be stronger than any disagreement. Friends can be family. There are good messages in this book without being didactic; instead, they are woven into the story.

Grey’s illustrations are quirky, expressive, and layered with texture, and are pleasing to the eye. The illustrations and panels move the story along visually; we see the wet fox salesman arriving on the beach in one panel, and then his hand knocking on the friends’ door while we see them happy eating cheese fondue through the porthole window in the next panel. And the text moves well; there’s just enough on every page to tell the story well. This is an enjoyable story that underscores the importance of friendship and love, and living the way that feels right to you.


About Cheryl Rainfield

I write the books I needed and couldn't find as a teen. I write teen fiction--paranormal fantasy and gritty realistic fiction. I'm the author of SCARS (WestSide Books, 2010) #1 ALA QuickPicks, and Governor General Literary Award Finalist, HUNTED (WestSide Books, Oct 2011), STAINED (Harcourt, 2013), The Last Dragon (HIP Books, Sept 2009), and Walking Both Sides (HIP Books, 2011). I also enjoy drawing, surfing the web, connecting with people I like, doing crafts, and being with my dog.
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4 Responses to Review of Picture Book Three By The Sea by Mini Grey

  1. Zoe says:

    We got to see Mini Grey live this summer at a festival and she was amazing. So creative and a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm. ( – if you scroll down you’ll see some photos of her and us)

    That said, this is one of my least favourite books by her. Not that it’s bad, but just not as brilliant as her Traction Man stories, or her takes on nurseryrhymes/fairy tales.

  2. That’s very cool that you got to see Mini Grey live, Zoe! I like Traction Man, but somehow this book worked better for me. It’s funny and neat how books touch each of us differently.

  3. Deb Marshall says:

    Thanks, Cheryl! I have not yet picked this book up. Seems I best be reading and sharing it.

  4. I hope you enjoy it, Deb. 🙂

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