When Oliver’s explorer parents go missing, he sets sail on a rescue mission with some new, unexpected friends: a grumpy albatross, a nearsighted mermaid . . . even a living island! But the high seas are even more exciting, unusual, and full of mischief than Oliver could have imagined. Can he and his crew spar with sarcastic seaweed, outrun an army of sea monkeys, win a fabulous maritime fashion contest, and defeat a wicked sea captain in time to save Mom and Dad?
I haven’t read this sort of book for a very long time. But as our toddler gets older we’ll need to know how to transition from Brown Bear Brown Bear What do You See? to Midnight’s Children.
With that in mind I’ve started taking a look at children’s books. Oliver and the Seawigs begins with the end of adventure. Oliver’s parents have purchased the first permanent home he’s ever known and he’s eager to establish himself in his new room. His parents, however, immediately notice some strange islands in the bay and set off to explore them.
The book follows Oliver as he befriends one of the islands, oh yes, and the albatross upon it and goes in search of his missing mom and dad. It’s a tale of underdogs and can do spirit, confidence and individuality. Everything the postmodern child needs.
What’s great about the book is the perceptiveness, kindness, and agency of Oliver and his friends. They help one another because they can, just because they happen to be traveling in the same general direction. There’s a clever mixture of the factual and the fantastic, just enough to remind the reader that anything might be possible.
What might not be is a somewhat unreconstructed colonial attitude evident in the nature of both the characters and the authorial intrusions. And there’s a significant plot point based around conventional gender bullying. Neither is too egregious, though. If anything, they provide an opportunity to have meaningful conversations.
Recommended for readers interested in Junko Tabei, moai, and cryptobiosis.