Book review: Pearl of the Sea

Pearl of the Sea

Catalyst Press

Anthony Silverston, Raffaella Delle Donne and Willem Samuel

Review: Karen Watkins

This fantastical adventure comes from the award-winning animation team Triggerfish Studios in Bergvliet.

The large, glossy, full-colour fantasy graphic book is written by Anthony Silverston of Woodstock and Raffaella Delle Donne, temporarily in France, with illustrations by Willem Samuel of Claremont.

The team are behind the films Khumba, Zambezia and Seal Team.

Silverston says graphic novels are popular world-wide and demand for them keeps growing but there are few made in Africa or told from an African perspective.

Animation and graphic novels involve similar processes such as writing, storyboarding and character design, so it was logical for Triggerfish to expand into this form of visual storytelling.

Making an animated movie takes a helluva lot of time and money, so graphic novels allow them to get more home-grown stories out there, says Silverston.

Plus, in a country with high illiteracy levels, it’s a great way to expose young people to stories they can identify with, while encouraging them to read.

This story is about a friendship between a girl and a sea monster.

Pearl’s preferred habitat is exploring the ocean with snorkel, goggles, fins and her one-eyed mongrel, Moby. At school the teenager has no friends.

Pearl’s mother has vanished from their home in a sleepy coastal South African town. Her dad has lost his job as a chef and is struggling to settle the bills. Facing financial insecurity, Pearl starts fishing to help out but gets caught up with local poachers who swap money for perlemoen.

While diving in a restricted area, Pearl meets a massive misunderstood monster hiding in a shipwreck.

Luring it out with fish heads, she notices the many harpoons protruding from its tentacles.

Naming him Otto, she finds a way to remove them. The pair grows closer until the poachers decide to finish what they started. Pearl is the only one who can save him, but only if she has the courage to let go of her past and open up to others.

The story is often told through wordless panels of ocean, sunsets, action and larger-than-life characters, leaving the imagination to run riot.

The heroine is smart, brave and relatable to readers of all ages and tackles the complexities of poaching, families and friendships.