In a house by the sea there happily live a dog, a cat and a mouse. Well, happily enough until a stranger knocks on the door one night, offering them each a special free gift. Who is this mysterious salesman blowing into their little world and turning it upside-down? And can their happy home survive his trouble-making gifts?
I am new to Mini Grey. I have just discovered her through Lyn Gardner's two books (Into the Woods and Out of the Woods) but have to say that I am a brand new fan. Her artwork is clever and detailed. As a reader you see it for what it is, i.e. the content of the larder for instance, but it is only when you look closer that you notice that that box of all purpose flakes is good for: breakfast, snacks, baking, bathing, washing, scouring and Many Other Uses.
In Three By the Sea we meet three fast friends: Dog, Cat and Mouse. Dog tended the garden (a barren sandy place where he can dig to his heart's content and bury his old bones), Cat looked after all the house work (but tended to quite a bit of napping) and Mouse was in charge of the kitchen and cooking (mostly cheese fondue which is lovely but a bit dull). So the three friends putter around by their tiny house by the sea when one day a Stranger from the Winds of Change Trading Company Ltd turned up.
The Stranger is of course the catalyst for change, pointing out to each of our three characters in private, how their existence can be improved by items from his mysterious suitcase but also how the others are taking advantage of them. This of course leads to a giant fight between the three fast friends.
Mini Grey both wrote and illustrated this beautiful book and I am utterly in love with the characters. They are charming and sweet and even the Stranger (a fox) is a clever choice to be thrown into the mix. I loved that she used the fox for this, I love that he appears as the Fool character who changes everyone's lives but is not the one that is changed.
Suitable for a slightly older picture book audience (5 - 7 y/o), there is much to like about Three by the Sea. The story is sweet and generous and the artwork is quirky and funny, the more you look and notice the detail. Some words are quite difficult for younger readers but it will build their confidence and you can understand the word meanings from the context it is used in.
I am a proud owner of Three by the Sea and a brand new fan of Mini Grey. This very excellent little book is out later this month of September, on the 30th from Jonathan Cape / Random House.