Review: Oliver and the Seawigs

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

“Oliver! Oliver!” No, not that one: Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve, illustrated by Sarah McIntyre.

In September 2013 a 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck south-central Pakistan. The tremor was so violent that it caused the seabed to rise, creating an 18-metre-high island in the Arabian Sea. At least, that is what the seismologists claim… After reading Oliver and the Seawigs I am now of the opinion that this new island isn’t the result of shifting tectonic plates, but is, in fact, the head of a Rambling Isle getting ready for the Night of the Seawigs.

Oliver and the SeawigsThis fresh and highly enjoyable evidence has been brought to light thanks to the intrepid (if occasionally reluctant) child explorer Oliver Crisp, whose mum and dad are the most famous adventurers in the world. Just when they thought there was nothing left to discover, a mysterious cluster of islands appear in the bay beside their house.

No sooner have Oliver’s giddy parents run off to investigate this archaic archipelago than they and all the islands vanish, leaving Oliver alone and more than a little puzzled. A reverse earthquake, perhaps? Not at all. These Isles are of the Rambling kind, and they’re off to compete in the Night of the Seawigs, in which rival Ramblers flaunt their acquired headgear. This prestigious contest is the Crufts of the islet world, and every bit as ruthless.

Fortunately for Oliver, a single Rambling Isle remains. He and this gentle giant, along with a myopic mermaid and a grumpy gull (sorry, albatross – sorry! Diomedea exulans) set off to find Oliver’s parents and win the coveted prize.

‘Be not afeard,’ Caliban says in The Tempest, ‘the isle is full of noises / sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.’ Well, he can’t have been referring to the isles we meet on Oliver’s odyssey, for there is one isle in particular that hurts quite a bit. Will Oliver and his motley crew be able to outfox this rancorous rock? Will anything impress the sarcastic seaweed? Will the short-sighted mermaid ever find the elusive optician she’s been searching for?

Written by Philip Reeve and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre, Oliver and the Seawigs has everything to delight children and adults alike. The story is at turns funny, wild, touching and thrilling, with a host of fantastical characters (among which the aforementioned seaweed excels), an important lesson on bullying and even a faint dash of romance. Our hero, Oliver, is a model of brains, bravery and politeness, while his nemesis, Stacey de Lacey (which is not a girl’s name, he’ll have you know), is a classic super-villain.

Meet the creators of Oliver and the Seawigs in Oxford Education’s video below:


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