Grades 4-8 115 pgs
Eliot is Sent from his comfortable life to spend a summer with a great-uncle he has never met working on a fishing boat in remote Point Aconi, Nova Scotia. Eliot is nervous for many reasons: he's never been on his own before, he has never met this uncle, he has no idea how to fish, and he is not a strong swimmer. Once arrived, Eliot is met at the airport by his crabby old grandmother, which puts the summer on an even worse foot. At first Eliot hates the drab house, strange food, and gruff ways of his great-uncle Earl, but as time goes on he warms up to both the place and the people. Eliot learns to navigate the boat and begins to enjoy fishing: maggoty bait and all. He instantly makes friends, who he joins every afternoon for swimming and adventures. One new friend, a girl named Mary Beth, becomes both a first love and a big concern once Eliot suspects that she is being physically hurt by her father. Further complications arrive as the local bully threatens Eliot and his new pals. Eliot learns how to stand up for himself and to do the right thing, as he figures out who to trust and begins to appreciate this remote area of the world and starts to grow up. All too soon the summer ends and Eliot returns home, older and wiser with new skills and new friendships.
I was under the impression that Sea Change was much like Roller Girl or Smile directed at boys. The heart-felt coming of age story is there, but it really is not a graphic novel. This story is more of a graphic/fiction hybrid. It is a traditionally written fictionalized memoir with illustrations. I thought it would fly off the shelves of my library, but it has proven to be a slow mover. Why? Kids tell me they don't like the cover and think it looks boring. Even though the author/illustrator is a critically-acclaimed artist, I think the illustrations are too stylized and old fashioned looking for the audience They prefer something a bit more "cartoony". The real star of the book is the interesting and unusual design, which I personally thought was very cool, although may also be underappreciated by the intended audience. The story itself and the writing is very strong. I love that it has a Nova Scotia setting, which is highly unusual and the characters are all fully realized, especially the grandmother and great-uncle. The plot may be, again, more appreciated by adults and perhaps too reminiscent in nature for kids. The motivation for the bully's behavior and rehabilitation is offered and Eliot makes the right choices in both that situation and in finding help for his friend, who is being physically abused by her father. Eliot learns to navigate a boat, fish, and becomes more comfortable in the water, but he never swims to the dock with his new friends. This is realistic. Growth was demonstrated, but there is still something left for next summer. A beautiful and sentimental offering that will appeal more to adults than kids, but certainly worthy of the time spent.