Neil the Amazing Sea Cucumber – Amelia McInerney & Lucinda Gifford


Affirm Press

April 2023

RRP: $19.99
ISBN: 9781922848635

These days The Kid and I have beach days that look like her surfing and me sitting, enjoying the view or reading but in the past, from the time she was toddling, exploring the beaches at low tide was one of our favourite pastimes. We especially loved the hermit crabs of all sizes, the wiggly worms, the shiny sea jellies, the (thankfully) rare sighting of a blue-ringed octopus (!!!!!!!) and of course, the occasional glimpse of a sea cucumber.

I think Neil might make a good point. These are, seemingly, not the most interesting of creatures. [However, there are around 80-100 species MANY OF THEM EDIBLE -with their outer layer, bêche-de-mer, considered a real delicacy in many cuisines.] I don’t think that’s a consideration that should be raised with Neil, the hero of this adventure.

I say adventure because, for a sea cucumber, it is indeed that. Neil’s true love, Sandra (hehe) has been swept away – not off her feet, because obviously she has none – but more like a ‘go with the flow’ moment and carried away on a tidal surge. In a case of mistaken identity Neil sees, away in the distance, a Sandra look-alike (which is actually a discarded party pickle) and in his own cu-cumbersome way he races to her rescue.

The accompanying illustrations of this epic journey across the seabed had me in fits of the giggles. With deadpan delivery worthy of Neil Pye (The Young Ones – for whom I do hope this Neil was named) this boring amazing (if slimy) critter will endear himself to young readers from Prep upwards.

In my experience, young kiddos are really good at subtlety, and making inferences from illustrations that expand on text, and any adult reading this aloud will have difficulty in restraining themselves from snort laughs (or is that just me?). I love a good pun and there are some here that will provide a perfect introduction to this form of word play for youngsters. Lucinda’s clever cartoon style artwork is the ideal accompaniment to this narrative – which might seem sparsely written but is actually teeming with vibrant expression. And full marks to the designer for the absolutely superb binding – the gold foiling and Neil’s texture on the front cover is just a brilliant finishing touch!

Highly recommended for kids (and big kids) who love some understated humour and hilarious illustrations.

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