High Hopes on Sea, by Jenny Wagner

The Hope family lived by the sea in a squeeze-in, sit-down, have-a-cup-of-tea sort of house that sheltered behind the dunes. If you knew the house well, you would also know that it had its hands in its pockets and wore a tin roof over one eye.

In this curious house lives a curious family – they don’t have much money but are filled with a sense of joy in the everyday. They love visitors, they love the gentle breeze that cools their house and they love their dog Sassy, who has an unusual problem. She loves the sound ‘o’ and so barks loudly whenever anyone mentions a bone, or a boat, or rope, or hope.

Sassy’s problem creates a bigger problem for the family. They aren’t supposed to have a dog in their rented house and when the builders next door hear her barking, they complain. The Hope family are told they must get rid of the dog or find somewhere else to live. No one wants to get rid of Sassy, but neither do they want to move, so an innovative solution is needed. Just as well Mr Hope is an inventor. Hopefully his newest invention will work.

High Hopes by Sea is a gorgeous offering. The story is funny but also touching as we see a family work together to fix a problem. There is also a lovely sense of support for each other – Mr Hope’s inventions are not very successful, but his wife always encourages him. Gregory Rogers’ black and white illustrations reflect the dream-like quality to the book, adding an extra touch of whimsy.

The text is accessible as a read-alone for children aged about 7 to 10, but really lends itself to being read aloud.

Jenny Wagner is the author of John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat as well as other books for children. High Hopes On Sea will be similarly treasured.

High Hopes On Sea, by Jenny Wagner, illustrated by Gregory Rogers
University of Queensland Press, 2005