Monkey-handling in the Wide Sarcastic Sea

Oliver and the Seawigs - Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre

And then all of a sudden, there were too many monkeys.

I’m half-tempted to review this with Near-sighted mermaid! Talking Islands! Sarcastic Weeds! SEA MONKEYS! and leave it at that. Because really, if those things wouldn’t perk your interest then I cannot do much else. Also, I’m feeling a little out of my element critiquing a children’s book that is a straightforward adventure story with none of the subtext and metaphors where a broken mirror symbolises unfulfilled dreams and what-not.


So for whatever divine or voodoo reason I got pre-approved for this, I'm just so happy I have now found the genre where I cannot bring myself to complain about anything seeing as I’m too busy having fun.


After years of exploring the world with his adventurous parents, Oliver Crisp is excited to finally go home and lead a normal life. Except soon as they got to Deepwater Bay, his thrill-seeking parents were immediately wooed by the exotic islands close to their seaside house. But when his parents’ inflatable dinghy washed back to shore empty and the islands that they meant to explore seem to have vanished, the spirit of the Exploring Crisps takes over and leads Oliver to an adventure not quite what he expected.


As he searches for his parents, Oliver runs into a timid rambling Island he names Cliff; the overbearing albatross living in Cliff’s shore, Mr. Culpeper; and a quirky mermaid on her way to the optical store, Iris. Cliff swears to help Oliver find his parents if they could help him win the Seawigs Contest. Every year, different rambling islands meet in The Hallowed Shallows to see who acquired the best seawig ornaments in their rambling. Everything was going smoothly when the island Thrlstone turned up. With a boy named Stacey de Lacey and his army of sea monkeys.

”My name,” the boy said importantly, “is Stacey de Lacey.”
“But that’s a girl’s name!” blurted Oliver.
Stacey de Lacey’s face turned a dark shade of red. “Silence!” he shouted. “Stacey is one of those names that can be for a boy or a girl! Like Hilary! Or Leslie!”

What I really liked about this book, apart from the great imagination behind the rambling islands, was that the humor works so well for both adults and kids. I can imagine reading this to my niece and cracking up over the Sarcastic Weeds, Stacey de Lacey and his sea monkeys.


I loved how while this was action packed and funny it also inspires lessons of hope, friendship, finding strength in the most unexpected places and that bravery doesn’t only come out of exotic adventures, but also in standing up for what you believe in. All told in a remarkably light and entertaining narrative with beautiful illustrations. Since I read the digital copy, it took a bit of time for the next page to load since most are heavy on the graphics, but I didn’t mind it much because it allowed me to examine the little quirky details Sarah McIntyre placed in the scenes. Plus the About the Authors and Dedications page were so cute and clever I want to adopt them!


I’m not quite sure of the point in Mr. Culpeper’s character but I truly loved Iris. For a story that would probably appeal better to young boys, I found Iris as a strong independent mermaid who needs no sailor to sing to a good anchor and balance to the book.

This went on longer than I intended but for when you want to be the cool mom/dad/aunt/uncle; for the moments when you just want to read and not be disappointed; or for that time when you just want to see the word “monkey-handled”… this does the job wonderfully.


Review Copy Courtesy of Random House for Young Readers (THANK YOU!!!). Quotes taken from an uncorrected proof.