Picks and Pans Review: Sandcastles

updated 08/14/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Patti Mitchell and the Leap Foundation

A fire-breathing dragon guarding a medieval castle. A reasonable facsimile of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. A beached mermaid. These are not your average sandcastles. They're works of astonishing, if transient, art that can be created by almost anyone with the patience, the tools—nothing exotic, just beach pails, shovels, a watering can—and access to a nice, sandy beach. Each one comes with instructions, and each is a marvel of sand sculpting—and photography. For the beginner (or the beginner's kid) there's an introductory chapter that covers the basics, from the drip to the pancake to the brick methods. Read that, assemble the necessary tools, and head for the beach. under four chapter headings—"All Castles Great and Small," "Creatures of the Deep," "Beachmobiles" and "Everything Else Under the Sun" (my favorite here: Sundial by the Sea, which can actually tell time)—are enough ideas to fill a whole summer. And—so you'll only have to shell out once—the pages, spiral-bound for easy viewing, are also water-repellent. This book isn't just for kids; in fact the dragon's fire is created by using lighter fluid. And some of the sculptures are undoubtedly too complicated and time-consuming for all but budding Frank Lloyd Wrights. But in its own way, Sandcastles may be the best beach book of the summer. (Chronicle, $14.95)

Bottom Line: Don't forget the sunblock

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