________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 21 . . . . June 20, 2003


The Sea House.

Deborah Turney Zagwÿn.
Berkley, CA: Tricycle Press (Distributed in Canada by Ten Speed Press), 2002.
32 pp, cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-58246-030-2.

Subject Headings:
Boats and boating-Fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4


Clee was not herself the next day or the day after. She was not the girl who followed her uncle everywhere or who laughed at his stories.

“Come out, Clee!” Simon was rolling a large spool down the deck.

“Later!” she called back to him. Why hadn’t he noticed that Uncle Hal’s barge was barely floating and that Uncle Hal’s house was disorderly and that Uncle Hal was not much of a sailor at all?

Clee adores her larger-than-life Uncle Fishtank Hal, but when Hal takes Clee and her brother Simon aboard his boat for a few weeks, Clee becomes disillusioned. The boat is in disrepair, its cabin smelling of fried fish and sweaty socks, and Uncle Hal, himself, is not much of a sailor. He carries a pocket-size sailor handbook which explains how to make specialized knots, but no matter which knots he tries, they come undone, causing minor mishaps. After a week on board, the trio still has not left the dock. Finally, and only by accident (due to yet another knot gone awry), they set sail. When they land on a beach, Clee releases Uncle Hal’s “pet” hermit crabs because they have outgrown their shells and need to find new ones. It is then that she realizes that the boat is much like the crabs’ home- unusual at first, but great once the inhabitants get used to it. She also learns to accept her uncle, flaws and all, and gains an appreciation for his happy-go-lucky disposition and his ability to make the best out of less than perfect circumstances.
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     This title is the last of the Clee series which consists of one book for every season. (Readers will recognize Clee from The Pumpkin Blanket story.) Zagwÿn writes from Clee’s perspective. Though the book is meant for children, readers of all ages will identify with the main character for almost everyone has had a relative whose exciting stories enliven family gatherings. As one ages, however, one tends to view that same relative in a more realistic light, and this is true of Clee as she discovers and accepts her uncle’s shortcomings.

     The bright and cheerful watercolour illustrations, some rectangular and others circular, are cleverly superimposed on boat sails and sailor knots. Some information about hermit crabs is also provided on the last page.


Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarians at Bird’s Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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