________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 12. . . . February 14, 2003

cover Down at the Seaweed Café.

Robert Perry. Illustrations by Greta Guzek.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2002.
32 pp., cloth, $21.95.
ISBN 1-55192-473-0.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Lisa Sykes.

***1/2 /4


Thank you, thank you,
One and all;
Every tale
Was truly tall.

Who loves to sing?
Who loves to dance?
Let's move the tables!
Let's light the lamps!

One plays a flute,
One plays a drum,
One plays a fiddle,
While others hum.

Then in a swirl,
A swaying trance,
A few begin
The seaweed dance.

Down At The Seaweed Café is an imaginative poem celebrating the flavor of the Pacific Coast. Readers are invited to share a cup of seaweed tea while they watch for whales or seals, listen to tall tales told by the café regulars and join in the singing and dancing. The sea tales are told by various customers and range from a Spanish shipwreck with buried treasure to a sighting of a sea monster. All stress the exciting possibilities that life on the sea may hold. As the visit at the café wears on, so does the evening light, and the poem concludes with the sight of ships sailing off in the moonlight.

internal art

     Perry's text is organized into four line rhyming stanzas which have a flowing, rhythmic quality and suit his marine theme well. Many coastal references are made including vocabulary such as bull-kelp, a pod of whales, wharf, and driftwood, as well as, animals such as seals, whales, seagulls and otters. In one tale, the Pacific sea monster, the Cadborosaurus, is mentioned. Many students will be unfamiliar with this legendary creature and will no doubt ask for an explanation. A search on the Internet produced many sites providing the history and alleged existence of such a beast.

     One or two verses of the poem are rather weak and lack originality. For example: "The whales were here, the whales were there, the whales were jumping everywhere," but, for the most part, the stanzas contain a variety of visual images and capture the sights, smells and sounds of the coast. For instance: "Above the foam, On ocean trail, A pod of whales, Is setting sail," and "The sky is now, A starlit dome. The boats are all, Parading home."

     Artist, Greta Guzek, has created the appealing paintings which accompany Down at the Seaweed Café. These watercolour paintings are filled with fluid lines and movement and depict the ocean in varying shades of blue, green and purple. The illustrations include many details from the text while also showing the vastness of the open water and horizon. Pleasing to the ear and eye, Down at the Seaweed Café is a lyrical tale for both children and adults. It is suited to oral sharing and would make a good read aloud. As well, Perry's book would enhance any British Columbia or Canadian collection or marine theme. Down at the Seaweed Café could also be included as part of a unit on tall tales for elementary students. (Younger readers may be confused by the changing tales in the book but would certainly enjoy the rhythm of the language.) All in all, a fun salty sea tale.

Highly Recommended.

Lisa Sykes has worked as an early years teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB, and has recently relocated to Barrie, ON, with her family.


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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364