Sea Monkeys, Rambling Isles & short-sighted mermaids – Oliver & The Seawigs…

Moontrug has come across a lot of islands in her time: Engelsholm island in the Norwegian fjords (home to Scandinavian mer creatures); Great Britain (home to the rain gods); Old Harry (a rather stubborn fellow off the Dorset coast)… But she’s never come across an island undergoing a severe identity crisis – until she met Cliff, that is, from Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre’s amazing Oliver & The Seawigs.

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Oliver is the son of two intrepid explorers, which is all good and exciting, but it hasn’t left him any time for doing normal things – like hanging out in his bedroom and making friends at school. And so Oliver is relieved when his parents run out of places to explore and make their way back home. But within hours of unpacking, Oliver’s parents have vanished, along with the miniature islands which had mysteriously sprung up in Deepwater Bay below their house. Oliver goes down to the beach to investigate and after driving his boat out to the only island remaining in the bay, he concludes that his parents really have vanished. Before long, Oliver is catapulted into an adventure with a short-sighted mermaid, some very sarcastic seaweed, a grumpy albatross and an island with very low self-esteem. Eventually Oliver gets to the bottom of Cliff’s sadness: the annual Night of the Seawigs is approaching, the night every Rambling Isle parades his best Seawig (a wig made from the finest treasures of the seas). But Cliff has nothing to parade and is totally miserable. And so spurred on by the thought of helping Cliff find a brilliant Seawig and bringing back his parents, Oliver travels further out to sea.

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The characters are fantastically original and VERY funny. For example, most mermaids Moontrug has ever come across have been beautiful creatures with voices like angels and hair like rippling silk. Not Iris. Iris is a tad overweight, she sings like a tone-deaf walrus and she’s badly short-sighted. And she thinks sitting on rocks and singing like the rest of the mermaids is ‘completely lame.’ Now that’s Moontrug’s kind of mermaid. Her friendship with Oliver is brilliantly crafted and Moontrug has never come across such a polite explorer as young Oliver. When he pops out to rescue his parents from the evil Thurlstone Isle, he leaves a very courteous little note for Iris:

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The setting is both wonderfully magical (‘The Hallowed Shallows…are the place where all the old things of the sea went to live once the people in your world stopped believing in them) and very funny (our Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic is transformed into the brilliant Sarcastic Sea: ‘I love the inflatable dingy…orange is such a tasteful colour.’ It’s the perfect setting for creatures like Sea Monkeys to abound and nasty boys like Stacey de Lacey (yes, that’s a boy’s name, apparently…) to crop up in.

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Cliff’s quest for an exciting Seawig is totally original (think narwhals, lighthouses, ancient temples, submarines, even tractors!) and the author clearly had a lot of fun dreaming up his possible Seawigs. It was no wonder that when Moontrug went along to meet the author, Philip Reeve, at the Imagine Festival, the illustrator, Sarah McIntyre, was sporting one of the best Seawigs imaginable, complete with shark, rubber duck and a mighty wave. And one step cooler than that… McIntyre taught me how to draw a pesky Sea Monkey. And here he is, aptly named Snotboogle:

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Oliver & The Seawigs is a an inventive story with a fabulous cast, perfect for 7+ years. And to celebrate its wonderfulness, Moontrug is opening a competition. Here’s the deal: Moontrug wants you to describe the most brilliant Seawig you can think of. It can have anything at all on it – so long as the ideas are CRAZILY imaginative. And if you have a spare moment or two, you can accompany your description with a fabulous drawing. See Moontrug Competitions for more details. I’ve a sneaky feeling Ascot Races is going to be dealing with some rather unusual hats this summer…

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