Oscar Lobster’s Fair Exchange

George Selden, illustrated by Peter Lippman (1966)

This was my first “beach book” in the marketing sense of the term. I always brought books to the beach, but Oscar Lobster’s Fair Exchange took place in the ocean, which felt just perfect to me. There I was, reading about talking lobsters and fish, mere yards from actual lobsters and fish. Who might have been talking amongst themselves for all I knew.

Library books, with their protective covers, have a way of attracting sand. Which means that if you read a library book at the beach (and my beach books were almost always from the library), you will likely return it with a little bit of sand inside the plastic sleeve. Just a few granules to show where it’s been—tiny souvenirs.

I don’t know how librarians feel about this, but I always enjoy finding a book with some sand in it at the library. That sand means the book has been to the beach and been read in the sun by a person who is relaxing and possibly wearing sunglasses. It means that someone chose this book to read on vacation, which I would think is quite a privilege for a book. Slightly sandy books should wear their grit as a badge of honor on their return the library shelf: They are officially beach books, whether or not they feature actual sea creatures.

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