Helen Cresswell Week: The Beachcombers

Okay, you’ve heard me say how funny the Bagthorpes are. But maybe you don’t dig funny books.

Maybe you want something deep and strange and wondrous…

Then if I can convince you to try just one Cresswell book, let it be The Beachcombers.

The Beachcombers (Hodder modern classic)

It’s hard to explain it any better than this Horn Book review, from 1972 I assume:

“The author of The Night Watchmen has woven another fantasy whose elusive threads of meaning form a spider web of substance…” and “The author is setting foot where no other fantasy writer has ever quite set foot before.”

Now you know me, I hate to give away any information that could spoil the book. If you must have a synopsis before you read: it’s about beachcombing.

But why was young Ned offered a free stay at the beach?

Mrs. Pickering: “Where there’s money paid, there’s questions asked. No money — no snooping. All square and above board — free hospitality and holiday by the sea.”

Yes, something sinister is afoot. But it’s not your garden variety sinister. As Horn Book suggested, it’s more and less than that.

“He was conscious all the time of hints and glances flying like forked lightning about him, of Mrs. Pickering hovering…”

Oh, that Mrs. Pickering. Now there’s a great character.

But I almost wonder if that “one book” you need to read is The Night Watchmen. Try them both if you can. And if you’re a librarian, please keep them both on your shelves.


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