Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta

Written by Lisa Wheeler
Art by Mark Siegel
40 pages, color
Published by Atheneum

I’m noticing more and more of a fine line between children’s books and comics these days. Some, like Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly’s Little Lit, don’t surprise me at all, considering the editors’s work within the comics world. But then you turn around and see a book like Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta by non-comics creators Lisa Wheeler and Mark Siegel and the only real difference between it and a comic is, quite frankly, how the publisher chose to market it.

Old Seadog wants to go on one final journey out on the ocean, but to do that he’s going to need friends. With the help of Dear Dachshund and Brave Beagle, they’re in search of adventure and treasure, but can they escape the nefarious clutches of the dread pirate Jacques Fifi? And will Old Seadog find the happiness that he’s searching for?

Wheeler’s story, if told in a simple and straightforward manner, would have been amusing in its own right. You watch friendships blossom and there’s a nice little story about finding the real treasures in life. What really made Seadogs stand out for me, though, was its subtitled nature of being “An Epic Ocean Operetta”. The book is told as an opera, complete with the audience filing into the stage at the start of the book, and their reactions afterwards. This also means that Seadogs is sung, so its narrative is entirely in rhyme. What might’ve come across as cloying in other hands works well here; the language flows naturally to the point that I actually had to double-check when writing this review that it really was written in rhyme.

Siegel’s art would not be out of place at European publishers like Delcourt and L’Association, with its simple yet expressive art. It must have been a real delight for Siegel to design the characters of Seadogs, from Dear Dachshund’s perpetually worried face to Brave Beagle’s pretty freckled face. It’s easy to see which pirate story archetypes Siegel has mapped onto each canine, all the while making the characters very much his own creation. There’s a good panel progression here, and Siegel does a nice job with Wheeler’s “night at the opera” framing device, complete with a beautiful two-page spread of the cast on the stage and the orchestra pit hovering on the edge of your vision.

Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta will do quite well as a children’s book, there’s no doubt in my mind. Wheeler and Siegel make even the biggest landlubbers want to head out to sea by the time Seadogs is through. However, this is a book that I think can also do quite well in the admittedly smaller comic market. Definitely worth your time and effort to hunt down this treasure… and you won’t even need a map or a shovel.

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