The Singing Seal (Merv Lamington, illus by Allison Langton, Affirm Press)
The first book in Affirm Press’ new ‘True Animal Tales’ series is an amiable and accessible glimpse into the cheeky imagined world of the real-life New Zealand fur seal who frequents the steps at the Sydney Opera House. The story isn’t deep or particularly layered, but it is charming and full of heart. Florence the seal is not the same as all the other seals. She loves to sing and, after practicing and practicing, she lands every (seal) understudy’s dream role when she manages to replace a human opera singer at the very last minute. Merv Lamington’s good-natured tale about embracing dreams is followed by a single-page fact file on the real ‘Florence’ and fur seals in general, which is brief and simple but enjoyable, just like the story it complements. The illustrations are Allison Langton’s picture-book debut, and this definitely won’t be the last we see of her. The visual style is lovely: nostalgically reminiscent of Miroslav Šašek (of the late mid-century ‘This is …’ city picture book series) but incorporating a warmer, curvier, more playful mood. Florence herself is accentuated by some comedic eyelashes that perfectly capture her sense of grand adventure and refusal to settle for ‘normal’ sea life. The book should appeal both at school and at home, for a lower- to mid-primary audience.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is an editor and writer, and a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop