Monday, March 1, 2010

Sea Tails - Vol. 2

Volume #2 in the Sea Tails series is Knot's New Home (2007); it is written by Sheriee Dardis, illustrated by Sean Kelly, designed by Tim Dardis, and created by all three. Keeping to a long format for a children's book, this one is 90 pages long. Sloop, the sleepy clam, is still there at natural stopping points in the story, but I definitely would not leave this book to be read by a child on their own. It is meant for adult and child to read together, and that shows in the writing and tone of the story.
Point blank, this is not Dardis' best work. Volume 2 picks up immediately after Volume 1, although there is a spoiler update on the first page to bring you up to speed or at least clue you in on what happened in the first book. Comic books do this all the time... but reading things in the order which they were written is still the best way to enjoy a series if you ask me. If you choose to explore this series, be sure to start with Vol. 1.
Knot's New Home starts out by introducing you to new "students" that will be Porthole the little loggerhead's friends at Sea School. Do not expect any character development, lest you be sorely disappointed. Tack, the red coral crab, is perhaps the most annoying character I've ever encountered in a children's book. Just giving you a heads up. I think she is meant to be comic relief, but is about as successful as Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars series. Besides... should a kid's book actually NEED comic relief? The first half of the book is a rush of meeting new animals with speedy introductions and Knot, the octopus (and also in the title), is barely in the story until the end. There isn't much of a story until the end, either.
I think the creators really want to put a moral in each story and teach kids practical lessons about respecting the oceans, I just hope they find a way to do that and still tell a good story in subsequent books. This time around, there is a snippet about boat wariness, and more regarding the dumping of trash in the oceans. I don't really know how to blend these concepts together for you, because the story itself was choppy. There is great promise in the Sea Tails series, but for Vol. 2 perhaps Dardis should either make this one smaller and focus on one thing or make the book 120 pages instead, go all out, and give the story better meaning and development. I was also a bit put off by the OCD behaviors of several characters (i.e. Tack's speech issues going back and forth as she walks back and forth, Knot's locking/unlocking of jars and windows and his constant tying/untying of tentacles like the wringing of hands).
I said not to let your little one read this alone because there are random large words used by the characters and I think this is meant to build vocabulary... but, since they never define those words outright, a grown up will need to be nearby to help the child understand what they are reading. But do not despair, Kelley still keeps the illustrations light and interesting.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) worth reading... at least once

The Sea Tails creators have included a Sea Tails coloring book (2006), which features individual pictures of all the characters (many not yet introduced in the early stories) and a little factoid at the bottom of each page. Some of the different species are hard to distinguish, mostly from lack of color, but I think that would not be an issue in the story books. The pictures are fun and it seems a shame to color them only once!

RATING: ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) highly recommended for little kids

I'll conclude today with one of my favorite quote/summaries. Since it came from Archimedes, there is some argument as to the exact wording in English...

"Give me a staff and a place to stand and I can move the world" - Archimedes

Feel free to put THAT on your wall!

No comments: