Bookworm: Footprints in the sand; beginning the end

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore”

  • By Susan Wood, illustrated by Steliyana Doneva
  • c. 2019, Sleeping Bear Press
  • $16.99, $21.99 Canada; 32 pages

The sand feels funny, squishing between your toes. It sticks to the bottom of your feet, the bottom of your hands, and the bottom of your swimsuit, and it’s fun to leave footprints in it, so you can see where you’ve been. It’s always a good day when you’re at the beach, but in “Sandy Feet! Whose Feet?” by Susan Wood, illustrated by Steliyana Doneva, who else is there with you?

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It’s sunny, the water’s warm, and yay! You’re at the beach. The waves are perfect for splashing and the sand is wet in some places and dry in others. Who could resist making all kinds of footprints?

“Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore” by Susan Wood, illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

Not the dog, whose fat, furry paws make footprints in the sand. You can see his toe-marks and his claw prints as he runs around and splashes.

A sandpiper is a bird that lives at the beach and he runs back and forth on his quick little legs. He jumps and skips and you can see his toes in the sand, too, but they’re very small. The sandpiper’s footprints are from little bird feet.

The seagull, another bird, also leaves footprints on the sand.

If you watch over the water, you might see a pelican, as he dives for dinner. He’s a hungry guy, ready for a few fishy snacks.

Over there, right at the edge of shore, you can see a footprint that looks like someone dragged their feet. That’s the print of the crab, who “scuttles on its way” back to the water. Watch out for his claws! The footprints that look a little like a star are from a starfish who doesn’t want to be caught – and that other shuffle-mark is a turtle who might be ready to make her nest. Baby turtles are the cutest!

Pretty soon, it’s the end of the day and almost time to go home - but wait. Look at those long prints with five little round toes. Who do you think made those footprints in the sand?

The towels, toys, swimsuits and sunscreen are all piled up and ready to go. So are the kids; they’re so excited, they can barely sleep and “Sandy Feet! Whose Feet” is the perfect pre-vacation, before-bedtime treat.

“Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore” author Susan Wood.

Inside this book, author Susan Wood offers a simple rhyme that’s short on words and light on action, and illustrator Steliyana Doneva matches the tone with muted colors in her drawings. That means a quieter, more relaxing story for your little beachcomber, but it’s one they’ll remember as soon as they hit the sand.

Wood’s tale gives kids something to do while it imparts a different sort of lesson: they’re subtly challenged here to look for marks in the sand made by the beach’s wildlife. More importantly, the children inside this book are respectful of the water and are shown having fun and being safe.

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For 4-to-8-year-olds, that’s just-right, and “Sandy Feet! Whose Feet?” may help parents make memories. If you’re heading to the beach for what’s left of summer, step out and get it.

“A Beginner’s Guide to the End”

  • By BJ Miller, MD and Shoshana Berger
  • c. 2019, Simon & Schuster
  • $28, $37 Canada; 520 pages

All good things, as they say, must come to an end. An entertaining movie, a beautiful song, a warm get-together, they have a finite time and then they’re done. The same holds true for a life well-lived, and with “A Beginner’s Guide to the End” by BJ Miller, MD and Shoshana Berger, you’ll know your finale is the way it should be.

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The diagnosis arrived and you haven’t quite decided what to do with it. The fact is, you’re dying but you have time to adjust. So do your loved ones.

“There is nothing wrong with you for dying,” the authors say, even though social verbiage refers to it as “failure” or a lost “battle.” You’re dying, and everybody does it eventually but there are ways to prepare for it.

First, clear your head, “clean out your attic.” Get rid of things you know your kids won’t want or need, donate, re-gift, assign heirlooms. While you’re cleaning physically, clean emotionally, too, by tying up loose ends and saying words that need saying.

“A Beginner’s Guide to the End” by BJ Miller, MD and Shoshana Berger.

Like every other important step in life, death requires paperwork. Hire a lawyer, if you must, but get your will in order, sign an advance directive, talk to your doctor, and do it annually because things will change. This is also the time to put your finances in order: dying costs a lot of money.

Learn to cope with emotions when you begin to truly feel sick and know how to take stock and communicate succinctly. Talk with your doctors with the same preciseness: you’ll have lots of questions going forth, so know how and what to ask and how to accept the answers you get.

Everyone is afraid of death; it’s “the mother of all fears” but you can cope with those feelings, too. Learn how to tell people about your diagnosis, how to maintain romantic relationships, how to choose end-of-life care, “hospital hacks,” and how to get the care you need. Finally, take control of the funeral.

It’s been your life. Now it’s your death.

Readers searching for a comprehensive, matter-of-fact, easy-to-understand book on navigating the end of a life can stop looking. “A Beginner’s Guide to the End” is pretty much exactly what you want.

Authors BJ Miller and Shoshana Berger start with an inner journey, by helping readers sort through emotions and belongings long before they’ve informed anyone of what’s to come. Indeed, telling friends and family is a few chapters hence but let that placement underscore what the authors say: there’s no timeline or correct way to die. It’s your death. Still, having this book around could be comforting, since it seems to touch upon every question one might ask and the authors don’t leave anyone out: there’s ample information here for caregivers and a chapter on talking to children about death.

Because you never know the future, this is a book to have on hand even if you’re hale and hearty. Like a thorough Scout, always be prepared; “A Beginner’s Guide to the End” is a good start.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.