You know those places that get into your soul? A song, a smell, a certain color of nail polish will take you back to that place? When you close your eyes to imagine serenity, you end up in that same place? When you daydream about next year’s vacation (the relaxing one, not the educational one), it’s about this place?
For me, that place has always been Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. My family has been camping at this park for 30 years. When our son was a baby, we had to get him to the ocean. We needed to get away. We were invited to stay with my aunt and uncle in their RV at my favorite place during their vacation. We keep thinking it will be an invitation they regret, but we keep getting invited back year after year!
A couple years ago, I visited Litchfield Books one afternoon mid-week when I needed a break from the sun. There I found an autographed copy of Mr. Gator Hits the Beach. The story was about our gators. It was about our beach. The sea turtles who nest at Huntington Beach were there, too. Even the park naturalists made an appearance in the book. It was surreal to see my favorite place come to life on every page.
Mr. Gator Hits the Beach is written and illustrated by two retired teachers who share their books all over South Carolina with schoolchildren. In addition to Mr. Gator’s adventure story, there is factual information about the South Carolina low country throughout the book. It just tends to grow with my kid. Now that he’s older, he’s interested in the more educational tidbits: like the map of the South Carolina coast inside the back cover, the glossary, and the alligator facts.
And he said the picture of the people Mr. Gator sees building sandcastles on the beach, that’s us.
My recommendation? Read Mr. Gator! But also, when you travel, visit a local bookstore and pick up a book as your souvenir. Let a treasured book serve as transportation back to that special place whenever you need it most… like on a Friday after a long week when next year’s vacation seems very far away.
McLaughlin, J., & McKay, A. M. (2008). Mr. Gator hits the beach. Greensboro, N.C: Legacy.