NPR Books

Are you looking for a picture book to help your darling nieces and nephews drift to dreamland, like a lost doll swept to sea? This is not that book, if you would like them to, y’know, EVER SLEEP AGAIN. The Beach at Night is Elena Ferrante’s (yep, the very same) fable about a doll’s night alone on a beach after she is abandoned by her owner. You could be forgiven for thinking this slim volume, with its dreamy illustrations, is a children’s book, and I think it might be, but many American children will not have encountered these themes (or the word “s***” for that matter) in a picture book. (There is also a vaguely sexual overtone to the abuse that Celina, the doll, is put through by her tormentor, The Mean Beach Attendant of Sunset.) That said, for American adults who have devoured Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, it will be a pure and strange delight. It’s a wispy and weird little tale that feels familiar — another Ferrante mother and daughter pair working through the complexity, cruelty and beauty of their bond. (For ages 8 to 12)

— recommended by Barrie Hardymon, Weekend Edition staff