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The Sea House

by Deborah Turney Zagwÿn

Illustrated in watercolours, this delightful sea story by B.C. writer and illustrator Deborah Turney Zagwÿn is the last in her seasonal series featuring a girl named Clee. Billowing sails, gusty wind, and knotted ropes decorate each page. Sea treasures abound. Portholes serve as fun borders for some pages, while patterned sails form the backdrop of others. All this complements Clee’s quirky Uncle Hal, whose clothes are described as looking “ready for the laundry bucket.”

Clee and her little brother, Simon, are summer vacationing with Uncle Hal on his run-down barge. Clee is old enough to notice Hal’s flaws. She sees that his stories are embellished and his nautical skills are shoddy. Hal’s reliance on his sailor’s handbook to tie knots that never hold is endearing, but reveals his incompetence in basic sailing know-how. Luckily, Hal possesses other more favourable traits, including cheerful optimism and respect for nature, that eventually win Clee over. Hermit crabs, kept in an aquarium and later released, provide a solid link to nature. The last page includes interesting facts about these critters.

The bristly character of Uncle Hal combined with his rustic speech pattern (he says “me” instead of “my” and uses a smattering of “yers” and “ers”) make for a robust read-aloud session. The descriptive language often flows like poetry, although sometimes readers may trip over the surprising combinations of words that are, like this book, expertly crafted and far from predictable.