Tag Archives: collage

Day 178 – Over in the Ocean


Over in the ocean
Far away from the sun
Lived a mother octopus
And her octopus one

‘Squirt’ said the mother
‘I squirt’ said the one
So they squirted in the reef
Far away from the sun”

over-in-the-oceanSo begins Marianne Berkes’ “Over in the the Ocean”, a wonderfully catchy rhyming and counting book that also serves as an introduction to some of the amazing animals that live along the coral reef. Set to the rhythm and tune of Olive Wadsworth’s classic rhyme “Over in the Meadow”, “Over in the Ocean” is a delightful read aloud experience made all the more entertaining by Jeanette Canyon’s intricate “relief” illustrations.

We had a lot of fun reading this book. The pace and rhyme scheme are addictive – it rolls right off your tongue and should keep little listeners thoroughly engaged. In the back of the hardcover edition that we read there is also a copy of the music to go with the rhyme and some additional information about the coral reef and the animals in the book. The end notes also include some tips from Ms. Canyon – who created all of the illustrations in the book with polymer clay(!) We love finding these kinds of extra “goodies” as part of our reading adventures – it’s so fun!

For some additional background information, you can watch a video about Ms. Canyon’s work on “Over in the Ocean” by clicking here.

Day 164 – Out of the Ocean

“My mother says you can ask the ocean to bring you something. If you look, she says, you might find it.” A wooden shoe, a sea turtle skull, pelican feathers, coconuts, and a beam from a sunken ship are just a few of the fascinating (and ultimately “necessary”) things found on the beach in today’s book, “Out of the Ocean” by Debra Frasier. Ms. Frasier’s book, illustrated with a combination of colorful collages and photographs against a sandy backdrop, is a thoughtful and charming tribute to the ocean and all the things it can bring you…if you just remember to look!

oceanMs. Frasier narrates her book from the point of view of a little girl, recounting the treasures she has found on the beach and the conversations she has had with her mother about the ocean. Walking the beach, the narrator has asked for and been presented with all manner of treasures, from sea glass to shark’s teeth to skate eggs…to a wooden shoe – and each time, what she has brought home has turned out to be exactly what she wanted.

Meanwhile, the little girl’s mother asks the ocean for things that are too big to bring home: the sun, silver moonlight, the sound of waves, and sea turtle tracks. “Those things are always there”, the little girl tells her mother, “You just have to look for them.” Laughing, her mother tells her that she discovered the secret: “It’s not the asking, it’s the remembering to look.” Some of the biggest gifts the ocean has to give can be missed or taken for granted, if you forget to look.

We thought “Out of the Ocean” was surprisingly sweet and profound. I particularly enjoyed the line about every discovery turning out to be exactly what the little girl wanted – it made me smile, and reminded me of the old saying that happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. The body of the book makes for a fairly quick read-aloud, but there is also a six-page “Ocean Journal” at the end that is quite informative and worth a read – providing more detail about some of the specific things the author herself has found at the beach. With or without the journal, however, Ms. Frasier has written (and illustrated) a wonderful book that is a great selection for summer-themed reading.

Day 92 – An Extraordinary Egg

In honor of April Fool’s Day yesterday we read “An Extraordinary Egg” by Leo Lionni, an adorable story about friendship and childlike wonder. The book is easily recognizable as a Lionni creation, with his simple and vibrant combination of collage and pastel that I have always found charming. Oh, and the book also made us laugh out loud!

LionniJessica is a frog who is full of wonder. She spends her days wandering the far side of Pebble Island, and always seems to return home with something exciting – even if it’s just an ordinary pebble. The other two frogs on the island, Marilyn and August, are never very impressed – until one day Jessica brings home a large white “pebble” that is “as round as the full moon.”  Marilyn, who is a self-professed expert on all things, announces that Jessica has found a “chicken egg.” When the “chicken” hatches and looks – to the reader – very much like a baby alligator, Marilyn proclaims “I was right! It is a chicken.” They are impressed with how well their new chicken friend can swim, and they play in the water from “sunup to sundown” for days. When the chicken saves Jessica’s life one afternoon (she had gotten tangled in some weeds under the water), the two become inseparable friends. Then one day, a little bird alights and tells the chicken that her mother has been looking for her. Jessica and the chicken follow the bird for a day and a night until they find the “most extraordinary creature” either of them had ever seen: the chicken’s mother (who also looks remarkably like an alligator).

Throughout the book, we kept waiting for the frogs to have an epiphany, but they never do. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of their error, it never occurs to them that their friend is anything but a chicken. That’s what made this book so funny to us. It’s like Leo Lionni is playing the “straight man” (in the comedic sense) while the rest of us can’t stop laughing. We loved how the frogs immediately welcome a new friend regardless of her very different physical appearance; it’s a complete non-issue. There is also something very zen and comforting about Jessica’s cheerful acceptance of the fact that her friend has to leave to be with her mother: “I’ll miss you very much, little chicken. Come visit us soon – and bring your mother too,” says Jessica…and then she moves on. By the time she gets back to the other frogs, she’s just excited to tell them about her experience, and about the silly mother chicken who called her own child an “alligator.”

We originally intended on reading a whole bundle of April Fools books specifically written for the holiday…but after acquiring them from the library, we were unimpressed. This Leo Lionni book was a last-minute substitute, and a wonderful one at that. In the end, keeping in mind the theme of the day, we had to wonder – were the frogs the April Fools for not recognizing the alligator in their midst, or were we the fools for not realizing that the joke was really on us?