August 31, 2018

A West Coast Summer

Illustrated with watercolours by Carol Evans
Text by Caroline Woodward
Harbour Publishing
32 pp.
All ages
September 2018

While A West Coast Summer may be a perfect book for reminiscences of a summer past, I think we should enjoy one last plunge into a summer on Canada's West Coast.

A West Coast Summer is a print gallery of dramatic artwork by watercolour artist Carol Evans who lives on Salt Spring Island. Her paintings–cameos, single pages pieces and art that spans double-spreads–depict children in activities along the coast, both on land and on the water, sometimes solitary, often with companions as they explore, play and reflect. It's an intense experience for all the senses as the reader steps foot in the water, cycles on a land spit, scrutinizes the small amidst the majestic landscape of trees and rock, honours their ancestry and accompanies friends and family on common and extraordinary adventures.
Art by Carol Evans from A West Coast Summer, text by Caroline Woodward
You will hear descriptors of the art as gorgeous, breath-taking and beautiful and they are all those things. By Carol Evans's hand, the water becomes palpable, lapping or still, serene or powerful, a playmate, a well of life, or a depth of secrets.  Her ability to give light to landscapes both open and sheltered is astounding. Most readers will feel the need to look closer to convince themselves that Carol Evans's art is not photographic or at least not produced with a camera.  It is not, but it is certainly true to life while evocative of time and place and feeling.
Art by Carol Evans from A West Coast Summer, text by Caroline Woodward
Caroline Woodward, author children's book including Singing Away the Dark (illustrated by Julie Morstad, Simply Read Books, 2011), knows how to put power in words. She hears what children are feeling and thinking and takes the reader with them to the places they visit. The lines
To the sea, to the sea,
who or what waits here for me?
are repeated several times through the book, with rhyming answers like
Sea salt in the air floats everywhere
and cedars smell so sweet beside the shore.

We explore the bog and flip over a log
to find beetles and bugs galore!
Art by Carol Evans from A West Coast Summer, text by Caroline Woodward
The dedication from Carol Evans is a telling statement about the intent of her art and the book:
Dedicated to all the children who will inherit this coastal homeland. And to the children who come to visit her. May we hand it down to you intact.
For those who live on or visit the west coast, A West Coast Summer will be familiar and comfortable.  It will be home.  For those who have never been, the book will be an invitation.


  1. This book looks wonderful.Would be a welcome addition to any library.

    1. I have to agree, Darlene. I also think that teachers would find it a worthwhile book to help young students see how other children spend their summers.

  2. Thank you, Helen, for this wonderful review! Like you, every time I look at one of Carol's paintings, I am awestruck by her skill. It was such a pleasure to evoke the child's point of view in verse after studying each painting which is the reverse of most picture book processes of course.It was an honour to have the opportunity to work this way with such a great artist whom I will finally meet in person when we do a Vancouver Island mini-tour in early October.

    1. You're very welcome, Caroline. I will be sure to post information about your book presentation in October. I have already seen the poster for the Victoria BC event at the Maritime Museum.