Jules Vs. The Ocean – written and illustrated by Jessie Sima

 Jules Vs. The Ocean – written and illustrated by Jessie Sima, Simon & Schuster, 9781534441682, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  Jules is a busy six-year-old girl who’s determined to build an excellent sand castle, showing up her older sister, who’s independent and capable enough to opt out of such activities and surf on her boogie board. However, over and over again, the waves slap down each of Jules’ new creations. Finally, a partnership with Big Sis and a strategic move away from the water’s edge augurs success, that is, until a mega crash obliterates that effort too. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted! Teamwork and sisterly love both get a shoutout and mom ends the book by pointing their attention to the real culprit, not the ocean, but the moon. The digital artwork is easy on the eyes, with rounded shapes and tropical colors that recall Lilo & Stitch. The family presents as BIPOC, with girls and Mom sharing brown skin and hair. Jules’ frustration is comically presented and the inevitability of waves at the beach is a predicament that most children can identify with.

Anything you didn’t like about it? There’s a lack of personality to the beach — all the umbrellas look the same, tilted at exactly the same angle. While some of the artwork manages to convey a sense of action (the water gently rising up Jules’ legs), it didn’t create much atmosphere for me — everyone looks remarkably dry and un-sandy. I thought that throwing in the moon as the culprit, rather than the ocean, was a bit off. Not sure that most of the target age group would understand the role that the moon plays in waves or tides.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children age 3-6 in need of a beach read. There’s some fun predicting to be done and the satisfaction of seeing the older girl pitch in to help solve the problem. 

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: January 3, 2021

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