Book Review: The Sea Monster by Chris Wormell

It’s always interesting to see what sort of children’s story awaits beneath a “monster” title.

When my firstborn was just discovering books, he had a penchant for monsters, and I’m pretty certain we looked at every book published for children with a monster theme or image. Favorites included Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, Doug Cushman’s Not Counting Monsters, and even The Berenstain Bears and the Green-Eyed Monster just to see Papa Bear turn green.  When I spotted Chris Wormell’s The Sea Monster, I had to peek inside and see what was new in monsters for children.

Chris Wormell brings his readers on a magical visit to the ocean shore, in the company of a little boy, his faithful dog, an old man, and a mysterious sea creature who is a little bit of all these things. While there is acknowledged danger — the boy is adrift on the ocean, far from shore —  it is never a frightening or threatening situation that would make a young reader uncomfortable with the story. By the time the danger is realized, the rescue is already underway.  Wormell is never saccharine or heavy-handed in telling the story; he trusts his illustrations to explain what he leaves unsaid.

The result is a magical story, told quietly, so that we might hear the lapping of gentle waves, the cries of seagulls, and the distant barking of a little boy’s dog.  Richly colored illustrations provide a sense of immensity: the vastness of the sea, the sheer height of the cliffs, and the mystery of love, in the form of an ancient monster.

The Sea Monster
Chris Wormell
Published 2005 by Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 0224070258