Oliver and the Seawigs – Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve collaboration

Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve‘s Oliver and the Seawigs (Oxford University Press) is a slight book, but perhaps slightly deceptively so.

After his explorer parents go missing, having decided to go down to the islands in the cove near their house, Oliver begins his own excursion. Arriving on an island, he comes across the short sighted mermaid, Iris, and the Wandering Islands and the Night of the Seawigs.

There is a lightness and an excitement to the book that works to both of their talents. McIntyre’s art bounces off Reeve’s prose and vice versa like a barrel of sea monkeys, writhing and appearing in unexpected places.

There is an important lesson that is worked through but with humour, rather thanĀ  banging the tin drum about it. An ongoing problem, and currently back in the news, the issue of bullying is handled in a humorous but direct manner. Avoiding cod psychology or tales of how everyone made it all up again, it demonstrates that bullies can often be stood up in different ways. The observations about people and their behaviour are wryly made.

To limit this book to being an “issue book” would be wrong. The other strand, and for me the more interesting one, is the one about creativity. The creation of the seawigs from found items and exploring the world to find objects is the most fun aspect of this book.

Above all this book is an exultant yelp about being excited and curious about the world. The slight contradiction between settling and exploring is worked through and the world moves on. Some books are jewels waiting to be discovered which is what this one was. I was recommended it by some one making a seawig and I’m glad that I took the time to enjoy it.

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