Monday, 16 March 2015

The Sea Tiger by Victoria Turnbull

The sea tiger is, well, a sea tiger. His best friend is a young mer-child, Oscar, and the ocean-world is their playground. They explore and play and always do everything together. Really, though, the sea tiger is as much a parent to Oscar as he is friend, looking after him on their adventures, and taking it upon himself to make sure Oscar makes new friends too.

I really wanted to like this book because the illustration on the front cover is lovely and because it’s called, you know, The Sea Tiger. It just sounds really interesting and appealing. The first time I read it, though, I really wasn’t sure. But the second time I read it, I formed a whole new opinion: that it is as nice as I wanted it to be.

The story doesn’t do very much in itself, but the intention behind the story is quite beautiful, and it’s somehow sad and happy all at the same time. Oscar and the sea tiger do lots of wonderful things together, exploring their ocean world, the sea tiger taking care of and looking out for Oscar at every turn. But it feels sad too because why doesn’t Oscar have any other friends? Is he just shy? And where are his parents? I think the first time I read The Sea Tiger, I overthought it, where as the best way to read it is to take each page at a time and think about what is happening there, rather than what the big, grand picture might be or a plotline to come.

The images are really quite beautiful, with a lot to look at and think about, and Victoria Turnbull has created in them a real underwater feel. The pictures are certainly unusual and distinctive, simultaneously magical and surreal. I especially liked the singing turtles, represented by musical notes flowing across the page; the page with all the floaty jellyfish; and the squid-and-seashell hot air balloons at the end. The only thing that grates a bit is the fact that Oscar does whatever the sea tiger does - he doesn’t seem to have a mind of his own and I’m not sure what this says. Obviously kids learn by example and need to have someone to care for them and guide them, but developing your own mind is also important!

But maybe I’m analyzing it too deeply. I’ve read other reviewers comment on this being book about a beautiful friendship, which it certainly could be interpreted as such, but for me it’s such a nice, quiet sort of a book, that it actually doesn’t really need to be ‘about’ anything except the joy and beauty of being alive.

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