The Sea Saw
Author: Tom Percival
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Details: Paperback, £6.99, 32pp
We can all remember that special toy that we had as a child. It may have been a bit scruffy and worn but that didn't matter: it was still our favourite. Tom Percival’s The Sea Saw is a delightful and touching story that taps into that sense of comfort that our treasured belongings give to us, a sense of comfort that we never really grow out of.
Sofia is the proud owner of a tatty old teddy bear which has been handed down by her mother and before that, her grandfather.Sofia's teddy goes everywhere with her, and when Sofia's father takes her on a trip to the seaside, teddy goes, too. Their day is filled with splashing in the waves, playing on the sand and eating fish and chips and ice cream. When a storm takes them by surprise, in the rush to leave the beach poor teddy gets left behind on the sand.
He is left all alone. Or so we think…
In fact, the Sea has observed what has happened and, knowing how upset Sofia will be, it decides to help reunite them. There will be a great many obstacles in their way and many years will pass but the Sea will never give up, enlisting the help of passing fish, whales, seals and ships.
Sofia, meanwhile, is bereft. Her mother had knitted a scarf for teddy and this is all she has left of him. We are left to wonder why Sofia's mum is absent from the story and an adult reader, or even a very perceptive child, might wonder whether perhaps she has died, making the loss of teddy even harder to bear. Sofia treasures a piece of teddy's scarf in a locket that she wears and the years pass by, until she becomes a grandmother herself.
In an emotional and deeply touching ending, the Sea finally achieves what it has set out to do and restores teddy to the family, reminding us that "nothing is ever truly lost if you keep it in your heart". There is a satisfying sense of resolution and circularity as Sofia and her granddaughter, accompanied, of course, by teddy, pay a visit to the beach where the story began all those years ago and give thanks to the Sea for its kindness.
You could have heard a pin drop as I finished reading this story with our Reception classes. There is a timeless quality to this story and the children were absolutely spellbound from the start. You cannot fail to be transported to the vast skies and sweeping sands of the coast by Tom Percival's beautiful illustrations.
When teddy was left lying on the sand, the children voiced their concerns about what would happen next and many could remember how they felt when they themselves had lost treasured possessions. Some of the children remarked upon the way that we see Sofia grow from a little girl to an old lady through this story, and found this particularly interesting.
We talked about the historical details in the first part of the book, from the old-fashioned bus and the father's outfit to the old photographs on the walls. The children were unanimous is loving the happy ending, of course, and several commented on the excitement they felt as the bear was transported through its perilous journey.
Discussion of the story led seamlessly into talk, not just of the objects, but also of the people we hold in our hearts. Sofia's sorrow and loss is so sensitively yet honestly portrayed and I shall certainly be adding The Sea Saw to my mental list of picture books that tackle the issue of grief.
All in all, a beautiful and touching story and a huge thumbs-up from Reception.
Emily Marcuccilli is the school librarian at King's Hall School. She tweets @KH_Library