We were first introduced to Victoria Turnbull and The Sea Tiger at her MA graduation show. Anyone else who was there at that time will know that it was never a case of if her book was published but simplywhen.
The book follows the Sea Tiger and his best friend Oscar as they explore and play in the dark depths of the sea. Their world is full singing turtles (who we always imagine to be straining and out of tune) and schools of fish with tiny pin-point eyes. With gentle comic additions such as the underwater circus where jellyfish dare to put themselves between the ferocious jaws of a shark, to the carousel of serene seahorses where sea creatures are inflated into balloons, Turnbull creates a sense of otherworldliness that feels utterly complete and fitting for her tale. Our absolute favourite detail is the attention she pays to the way each character’s hair stands on end, swishing and swaying beneath the waves. The story itself is one of friendship and the sacrifices made for one’s friends, which is both comforting and satisfying; though we won’t to give too much away.
This is a book to immerse yourself in. The colour palette is beautifully muted, warmed by the peachy flesh tones used throughout which give this underwater landscape a rich inviting glow. The dark tones used for outlines, those wonderful sea tiger stripes and shadows are pure black and make a much-needed stark contrast to the delicate paintwork, and the pages enveloped almost entirely in black are some of the books most striking. The Sea Tiger himself is all bulk and presence, and we feel confident to follow him, just as the shy Oscar does, enchanted by him as he roars and swallows mouthfuls of fish. The pages are littered with characters and details, and every one has a charm of their own.
Victoria Turnbull’s timeless illustrations make her stand out out on every picture book shelf and her debut is a book full of life, movement and fluidity, and yet at times is utterly still. There are few images so powerful as the Sea Tiger and Oscar asleep on the dark sea floor, or looking up to the stars as the waves lap around them. Her book possesses that rarest of qualities: it is magical. Truly so, not in the throwaway reviewer way where we’ve exhausted all our other words. To read The Sea Tiger is a unique experience and one that will leave you pleasantly quiet and reflective. There is a joy to reading this by yourself, and it is the perfect book to delve into just before you go to sleep.
We predict great things for Victoria Turnbull, for she is in the same position her characters: the world is her oyster.