(Cover picture courtesy of Barnes & Noble.)
Every boy in Seaside wants to be one of Blackbeard’s Boys. From the time ten year old Robert Grace O’Malley could hold his very first fishing pole, it was all he thought about. Every captain of every ship had been one, and now he was well on his way. That is, until he meets Walter, the young octopus who will change his life forever. In Seaside, Wylde Scott takes you on an exciting voyage through a fairly-tale fishing village and a pivotal moment in the life of two unexpected friends. An adventurous story perfect for young readers graduating into their first novels or parents reading their little ones to sleep, it’s a book that’s bound to be a staple in every family’s library for years to come.
[Full disclosure: I received a hardcover copy of this book from the author at Book Expo America 2015 in exchange for an honest review.]
Novels for younger readers aren’t what I typically review here on The Mad Reviewer but the blurb was so intriguing and Mr. Scott pitched it very well at his booth so I just had to pick it up. In the end I’m really, really glad I brought Seaside home.
Seaside is a great book, as the blurb says, for young readers starting to read novels on their own or for parents reading to younger children before bedtime. But really, I’m a grown woman and I thoroughly enjoyed it so it’s not just for the little ones as long as you let your inner child have free reign for a while. It’s written at a level that any age group can enjoy but it’s the story itself that is (of course) the most important part.
Our human protagonist Robert is a ten year old boy who wants nothing more than to be one of Blackbeard’s Boys. In his village of Seaside virtually everyone works as a fisherman but Blackbeard’s Boys are sort of the in-crowd, the group of future fishermen that you really want to be a part of. They’re the cool kids and Robert quite naturally wants to be one. Which is where we begin our story: with Robert swimming out to the lighthouse late at night in order to prove he’s worthy to be one of Blackbeard’s Boys. That’s also when we meet our octopus protagonist, Walter. Walter is just a carefree young child who questions almost everything his mother says, especially when it comes to humans. Unfortunately, Walter’s reluctance to leave his play area that also happens to be a popular fishing area leads to his mother being captured by Captain Bonicelli, the son of the man Walter’s grandfather dragged to the bottom of the sea when he was caught.
Without giving too much of the plot away, Walter and Robert end up meeting and striking up a friendship that is as unconventional as it is taboo in the fishing town of Seaside. And it’s this friendship that really makes both of them reconsider their preconceived notions about both humans and octopi. Walter has to really think about his stereotypes regarding humans and Robert has to really reconsider whether or not he really does want to be a fisherman for his own sake or because it’s what is expected of him. That leads me into another important point about Seaside: it has some really great lessons in here for young readers. For example, the idea that you don’t have to fit in with the cool crowd and that you should choose to do what makes you happy rather than what’s expected of you. Those are lessons that people of all ages can use, but they are especially important for children.
Obviously for someone who reads quite a bit, the ending was a little predictable but kids will absolutely love it. One of the things that’s really striking about Seaside in general is that for a children’s novel, the characters were incredibly well developed. Of course both Walter and Robert were well developed, but the surprising thing was that all of the adult characters were as well. They all had a little bit of page time of their own and that revealed their backstories as well as the motivations for their current actions. We learn, for example, why Robert’s father retired from being a fisherman and why Captain Bonicelli has a bit of a chip on his shoulder when it comes to giant octopi. There are all sorts of fascinating little details in these peoples’ lives and I think you do have to read the book a couple of times to truly appreciate the thoughtfulness and detail Wylde Scott put into his novel. Of course the illustrations by Hannah Shuping really add to the story and bring the characters to life even more. They’re a little dark for my liking but they are fabulous and at times adorable.
Basically, if you have a child that’s just starting to read chapter books or one that’s a little too young but loves to be read to at bedtime, Seaside is a great choice. It has some amazingly memorable characters, a great plot, fabulous illustrations and some very important life lessons. What more can you ask for in a chapter book aimed at young children?
I give this book 5/5 stars.