To start off the weekend, I’ve decided to review a quick, cute children’s picture book called Oscar the Loveable Seagull by Mark Johnson. Since it’s a children’s picture book, your kids might appreciate it more than you would but I still think it’s an amusing read for people of all ages, especially if you’re looking for something heartwarming to help you and the child(ren) in your life end the day.
Oscar the Loveable Seagull follows Oscar, a seagull with peculiar blue feet who’s loved by everyone despite being the odd man out. As his siblings get stronger, Oscar remains weak and unable to fly. One day he falls out of the nest and his parents cannot get him back up. They care for him as long as they can but the day comes when the entire family must move on. Much to their distress, Oscar’s parents have to leave him behind.
With the help of an eagle and a dog named Cooper, Oscar learns how to gather food and care for himself. He grows stronger and more confident each day with the help of his friends, but will Oscar ever be able to fly? Will this loveable seagull ever be reunited with his family?
Overall, Johnson has written a very entertaining story which I would gladly read to my own children if I had any. It contains lessons about nurturing others, never giving up, and how being different doesn’t mean you have to be ostracized. Especially in the “dog-eat-dog,” “us vs. them” mentality of modern American culture, I think that these lessons are very important for children to learn in order to create a loving, mutually-beneficial society.
While lessons are very important for a children’s picture book, the characters and plot are even more crucial. Johnson manages to create very pleasant characters, particularly Oscar (he is, after all, the loveable seagull). My favorite characters, however, are the wise old eagle and Cooper the dog.
These two animals, while they have nothing to gain from it, selflessly put aside their predatory instincts to help this defenseless young bird (reluctantly) abandoned by his family. The eagle most certainly seems bizarre since eagles hunt seagulls rather than help them (as Johnson points out in the book). There are many cases of dogs raising abandoned kittens, a gorilla and a kitten or a dog and deer being friends, and other mismatched animal pairs in domestic situations, and it’s an area which Johnson definitely uses to his advantage in order to engage readers.
My one problem with the characters is that I wish the eagle had a name. All of the other side characters had names but, for whatever reason, the eagle did not. It’s a bit annoying and, given the rest of the effort put into this story, seems a little lazy. The lack of name does not detract from the character or the book, but a name for the eagle would have been nice.
As a very young children’s book (think around preschool or kindergarten age), the plot is simplistic. Nevertheless, I was able to identify a fully-developed plot with some anticipation and a desire to know if things turn out well for the main character. That well-defined arc, I think, will help young readers remain interested in the book while not being so complicated as to confuse them. I know that I, from an adult’s perspective, appreciated having even the slightest plot in this book, so I’m sure that parents and other caregivers will be happy to read their children this story without getting bored.
The illustrations are very colorful and do Oscar’s signature blue feet justice. A professional—or at least some talented artist—clearly did these drawings and child readers will love seeing Oscar’s attempts to fly and his days playing with the eagle and Cooper. The pictures also remind me of images from stories I read when I was little, a piece of nostalgia which parents will like to see.
While the illustrations are beautiful, I wish that the font for the text were different. The Kindle e-book I got from Amazon shows what appears to be Times New Roman font for the text, perhaps at 12-point but I’m not sure. It was very small and almost lost within the illustrations. I would have preferred the font to be bigger, perhaps even bolded, but at least big enough that I could easily see it contrasted against the illustrations. As with the eagle’s name, this aspect did not detract from the overall quality; it’s a personal preference and very well could have just been an issue with my device.
The story is short, fast-paced, and has the feel of the author telling the story right to you. Children will be captivated by the drawings and Oscar’s loveable nature, while the parents will find a throw-back to their own childhoods and appreciate the lessons about never giving up and taking care of each other. It reminded me quite a bit of Janell Cannon’s Stellaluna, a book which I loved when I was a child. I highly recommend Johnson’s Oscar the Loveable Seagull for my readers with children, who are about to have children, or frequently babysit a friend’s or family member’s children.
You can buy Oscar the Loveable Seagull as an e-book for $5.99 on Amazon. Also be sure to check out Mark Johnson’s blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account for more information on the author and that fuzzy oddball seagull.