Quill and Quire

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See You Next Year

by Andrew Larsen; Todd Stewart (illus.)

The summer holiday presented in Andrew Larsen’s See You Next Year is a far cry from stimulus-overload Disneyland vacations or activity-filled cruises. Rather, the week at the beach at the centre of this gentle story hums with rhythms of a less frenetic era.

See-You-Next-Year-CoverEvery year a girl and her family drive to the same beach for their holiday. Nothing much changes there, including the motel that acts as their de facto cottage, with its curvy mid-century sign. The girl observes the patterns of the days: tractors raking lines in the sand each morning, vacationers gathering around the bandstand at night, gulls reclaiming the beach when the humans retreat. But this year something is different: also staying at the motel is a young boy who shows the girl how to dive under the waves, digs a deep hole at the beach with her, and, on a foggy day, suggests writing postcards to pass the time.

Larsen’s straightforward and occasionally droll text about a summer friendship is brought to life through Todd Stewart’s terrific, atmospheric art. Stewart works with bold black lines and a simple palette, using tones of ochre and blue that deftly capture the changing light of the day. Just as memories range in vividness, the events of the week are presented in varying focus. Some scenes – children playing in the water or the field of red beach umbrellas casting pools of shadows – are crisply delineated, while others – the friends stargazing over the black outlines of trees or waving goodbye through a car window reflecting the morning sun – are hazy and impressionistic.

In the final (almost autumnal) frames, the girl receives a postcard at home. Pinned next to some photographs, the card is a memento of the week and the promise of a continued friendship next summer, suggesting the process of growing up.

With its nostalgic tone, See You Next Year should be lingered over like the hazy days of a too-short vacation.