Allison's Book Bag

QUICK TAKE: Puppy the Seal Cold Water Rescue

Posted on: July 20, 2015

When visiting my family this summer in Newfoundland, I picked up Puppy the Seal Cold Water Rescue by Elias Kawaja. This softbound picture book was inspired by hearing about tragedy on the water and wanting to write a story that appeal to young readers just starting school. I believe Kawaja has accomplished this with a basic narrative and simple illustrations.

The story is straightforward, as a parent might tell a child, with an easy-to-follow plot. One spring day, two siblings go fishing in the family boat. They meet up with a seal named Puppy, who for a time joins in their fun. When Puppy notices that Jackson and Sophia aren’t wearing life jackets, he takes on the role of an adult, advising the two of the need for life jackets. Next thing, the weather gets rough, the boat overturns, and the siblings are thrown into the water.

Along with an uncomplicated plot, Kawaja nicely balances exposition with dialog, to compose a tale appropriate for his intended young audience. Moreover, the vocabulary is generally plain enough that young readers might be able to read the text without much help. One glaring exception lies in the dialog tags. Here are all the variations I found: greeted, asked, replied, noted, suggested, agreed.

The artwork is an interesting mix of line-drawings and photographs. The line-drawings of the characters remind me of childhood days of drawing stick figures and create an inviting feel. As for the details, those are frequently created using basic shapes: circles for rocks, rectangles for the wharf and a bucket, triangles for trees, and even random shapes for texture. For the most part, this pictograph-style artwork actually works. The drawing of Puppy, however, didn’t feel quite polished enough for me.

Lightened photographs serve as background and enhance the visual experience. For example, the first page talks about the siblings going fishing, and includes a photograph of fishing nets along a coastal shore. When the children are paddling in water and waiting for rescue, a photograph of water and mountains serves as backdrop. The realistic backgrounds are a nifty extra touch that greatly appeals to my adult side.

Kawaja writes on the inside back cover that he hopes his book “offers some early awareness of safe water use practices in a light-hearted manner”. Puppy the Seal Cold Water Rescue probably won’t become one of those beloved and worn-out books in a child’s library, but it does entertain while also presenting an important message. Also, proceeds help support Search and Rescue.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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