Peter and Leo’s second adventure requires several suspensions of belief that most readers will be incapable of managing.
The hot summer day leads Peter’s grandmother to suggest boating as a way to cool off. But Peter is no ordinary boy with a canoe or sailboat… he has a submarine. Sadly, his adventure ends when distraction leads him to ground the sub on a sandbank. His stash of food, lemonade and a sleeping bag see the boy and his dog through the evening, but Leo’s growling at sounds in the dark becomes unnerving for even the plucky boy, so they close the hatch to sleep and await the morning’s high tide. But they cannot ignore it when the submarine tips over. Venturing out, they find the titular baby seal, which they take in. When they arrive back at the lighthouse in the morning, the three meet Grandma and the mama seal on the jetty, a police vehicle behind them. Strangely, the story ends there. If this had been an imaginary submarine trip, the lack of consequences would be understandable. But as written, Grandma comes off as irresponsible, while Peter is just a little too relaxed through the ordeal to be believable. The watercolor artwork lacks the humor found in de Haas’ previous work, and the dark nighttime scenes make it difficult to read the black text superimposed on it.
Ultimately, de Haas misses a great story—a boy with his own submarine!—while the story he does tell about a seal sinks. (Picture book. 4-7)