The story begins with Dash and his friend Lily, setting out with Dash’s dad and his stepmother for a family vacation at the mysterious Black Sand Beach. Once they arrive and meet up with Dash’s cousins, purple-haired Eleanor and hyperactive Andy, the fun begins. Or not, as the case may be. It’s a creepy place, where the beach is literally covered in black sand, they’re not allowed in the frightening forest, the neighbors are reputedly dangerous, and they’re stuck with Dash’s aggressive and unstable aunt Lynne. Don’t forget Uncle Frederick—he’s very quiet. And gray. In fact, there’s some doubt as to whether he’s really there at all…
When the friends and cousins investigate mysterious lights at the abandoned lighthouse, they discover frightening ghosts—but are they trying to trap the friends or is there something even more dangerous in the lighthouse itself? Then there’s the annual stampede of cows under the beach house (it’s on stilts), but for the first time someone is awake to see it—Lily. And these are definitely not cows… The creepy episode ends with a troubling incident where Lily, the only Black character, is replaced by one of the nightmarish not-cows and the family completely ignores the real Lily. However, this could also be read as Lily being the sensible outsider, the only person unrelated to the family by marriage or blood, and the voice of reason who frees them from the creatures.
The art is predominated by purple and green hues; the foreboding, dark purples of the beach and sky, bright purple of Eleanor’s hair and dark violet of Lily’s, and the nauseating purple of the mysterious “potatoes” provided to put the family to sleep during the stampede of the “cows.” Spots of green, Lily’s shirt and Eleanor’s shoes pop up here and there, with swathes of sickly green around the mysterious presence in the lighthouse and a bright, chemical green of the freaky “cows.” The adults are all caricatures; Dash’s stepmother has brightly-dyed blonde hair and a fake tan and sports pink dresses and high heels and her main concern is the lack of cell service. Aunt Lynne has a sharp, angular face, leathery tanned skin, and a messy thatch of graying hair. Dash’s dad is kindly, but unobservant; he vaguely realizes something is wrong, but is never quite sure what to do about it. Eleanor and Lily are the voices of reason, keeping wild Andy in check as much as possible and reassuring and supporting the sometimes nervous Dash as more and more frightening secrets are revealed.
Black Sand Beach is published by Pixel + Ink is a new publisher from Trustbridge Media, owner of Holiday House and Peachtree Publishing, focused on series fiction from picture books to middle school readers. Richard Fairgray is an experienced creator of comics, from picture books to the popular Blastosaurus series.
The undependable adults and frightening creatures make this title something I would recommend to younger readers with caution. However, for those who can handle the scarier elements and like their horror grotesque and their mysterious secrets plentiful, this will be a popular pick. Recommend to readers who enjoyed Alabaster Shadows by Matt Gardner, Apocalypse Taco and One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale, or are looking for an alternative to Doug TenNapel’s work.
By Richard Fairgray
Pixel + Ink, 2020
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation:
Character Traits: Disability, Visual Impairment