I grew up with the stories of longshoremen. My father, during his summer holidays in the 1930s was a longshoreman’s boy on the beach in Shanklin Isle of Wight. From what is now a pub on the beach, he lugged small boats and hefted out deckchairs and rented them out during long summer days. The bathing machines had only just been rolled into retirement, women still wore skirts into the sea, and for a boy who had spent his childhood in grim boarding schools, it seemed a charmed and sun flilled place.
Years later, as a 1960s family, we holidayed in the island. Not in the deckchair zone but on the huge majestic beaches of the west wight, where fossils adorned the sandcastles and long breakers meant hours of feeble but hugely enjoyable body surfing.
When my own children were the right age, we took a cottage near Steephill Cove, possibly the loveliest of all the deckchair paradises and became aware of the elderly longshoreman, Mr Wheeler who still hired out the deckchairs. Nothing in his world is remotely chaotic, it’s all beautifully organised, but it got me wondering about the possibilities.
What if the deckchairs turned on the people? What if the windbreaks trashed the sandcastles? What if everyone in authority pretended there was nothing wrong?
I took this idea and plugged it into the world of SHRUNK! and SUNK! was born. It’s summer, well, English summer, and things are going wrong on the beach, but no-one wants to know – so Tom, Eric, Jacob and even Tilly get involved in a desperate battle against the marauding beach furniture, rescuing the town from an uncertain future.
It’s out on June 4th – along with a completely redesigned set of brothers and sisters – with a new illustrator who is the fabulously talented Ross Collins (he can really draw.)
Although SUNK! is the last in the series – it can be read entirely on its own.