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Neil, the Amazing Sea Cucumber (Amelia McInerney, illus by Lucinda Gifford, Affirm)

Expect to be giggling, chortling then guffawing through Neil, the Amazing Sea Cucumber. Amelia McInerney writes a mockumentary-style picture book, taking a creative risk that pays off in abundance, and it’s one of the most clever and funny picture book I have read in a long while. Poor Neil is a boring bespectacled sea cucumber—at least that’s his low opinion of himself. Neil banters with the onlooking audience (the reader) about how awful and unintentionally hilarious life in the ocean is. And, if things weren’t bad enough, his mate Sandra is missing! Infused with sincerity and heart, Neil is an incredible character we can all relate to on those down-and-out days. Being accompanied by Neil as he laments of his self-prescribed ‘boring’ personality and unfortunate likeness to a cucumber (‘Is it a fruit? Or a vegetable?’ Neil ponders) is genuine fun. Lucinda Gifford’s illustrations, coupled with the text, is the perfect combination of vivid colour and vibrancy which makes this picture book a true joy. McInerney has penned one of the most inventive, zany, warm and, quite simply, best picture books of the past year. For any child six and up, teacher, parent, or collector of great children’s books, Neil, the Amazing Sea Cucumber is the freshly unique, laugh-a-minute story you didn’t know you were missing.

Books+Publishing reviewer: Brenton Cullen is a freelance writer and reviewer with over 10 years’ experience working in bookshops. Books+Publishing is Australia’s number-one source of pre-publication book reviews.


Category: Junior Reviews