Tag Archives: ocean

Celebrating a Storybook Year – June

June brought us the first days of summer and so we headed for the beach…figuratively, at least. We explored beach, ocean and sea creature themes in our books this month. We met Jacques Cousteau (the “Manfish”), Marie Tharp (the woman who first mapped the ocean floor), and plenty of other fascinating real life and imaginary characters. We also enjoyed a week of cute and funny books about Fathers’ Day, complete with bear hugs and goofy dad humor.

All-in-all it was a breezy, warm, and engaging month of reading in keeping with the summer season.


Day 179 – Island Boy

island-boy

“Island Boy” is another charming tale of historical fiction from one of our favorite author/illustrators, Barbara Cooney.

Matthais is born on Tibbets Island, Maine and his life is inextricably tied to the sea. After traveling the world as a young man, he returns to the island to marry his sweetheart and raise a family. The story crosses generations, sprinkles in some Maine history, and also includes a fascinating map in the back for children and parents alike to pore over. The ending is a little bit sad, but the book is as charming and beautiful as you would expect from Ms. Cooney. We thoroughly enjoyed it.


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 162 – if you want to see a whale

When you think about heading out to the beach, perhaps you imagine building a sand castle, splashing in the waves, or tossing a Frisbee on the sea breeze. These pursuits all seem fairly straightforward, and I’m not sure you need any special instructions for any of them. However, if you plan to set your sights a little higher, and what you really want to do at the beach is to see a whale…well, we may have found just the book for you! “if you want to see a whale” by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Erin E. Stead is a whimsical and poetic how-to guide with just the right amount of silly to make it a thoroughly entertaining read aloud experience.

whaleThe book begins with the bare essentials required for whale spotting: a window…and an ocean…and time for wondering…AND time for realizing. You will need a not-so-comfy-chair and a not-too-cozy-blanket, because you can’t watch for whales when you are sleeping (me: good point!). While watching you must make sure NOT to notice certain other things that might be intriguing: the color pink, sweet roses, possible pirates on the horizon, perching pelicans, small inching things…and clouds. You must watch the sea and wait…wait…wait…
Eventually, after much waiting, payoff (in this book, at least)! A whale does appear, and we are left to playfully imagine all the many adventures a child and his dog will have (conversing? exploring? sitting quietly?) with their new-found whale…but this is not a book about what to do with whales – it is strictly a book about what to do if you want to see one.

We love the poetic prose, the childlike observations, and the humorous illustrations of a child and his dog waiting patiently and forgoing all other distractions in pursuit of their singular goal. We also got a kick out of the idea of a child sitting and waiting for something fun to happen…it’s a theme that we saw previously in another Fogliano-Stead collaboration: “and then its spring”…and we enjoyed it just as much here as we did there. As with the prior book, patience is eventually rewarded – but, goodness, that waiting is hard work!

Day 161 – Manfish (a Story of Jacques Cousteau)

June is our month to read about the beach and the ocean, and it also happens to be National Scuba-diving Month. What better time, then, to read a picture book about Jacques Cousteau, the world’s most famous scuba diver, who also happens to have been born in June (June 10, 1910). “Manfish” by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Eric Puybaret is a lovely book, with poetic prose, attractive full-page illustrations, and an inspiring story about the explorer and inventor whose many films (over 115!) introduced the world to the wonders of the ocean.manfish

Ms. Berne introduces us to Jacques as a little boy in France – a little boy fascinated with the ocean who dreams that one day he will be able to “fly” and breathe under water. He is also fascinated with machines and with films – which he begins creating with a small home-movie camera he bought by saving his allowance “penny by penny.”  After finishing school, he travels the world as a member of the French Navy, filming everything he sees. Then, one day, wearing a pair of goggles given to him by a friend, he wades into the ocean and his eyes are opened to the wonders below the surface. Driven by a passion to explore the deep as a “manfish”, Jacques eventually invents the “aqualung” – and for the first time a person is able to swim for an extended time below the surface of the ocean. Success! With his cameras, his new invention, his best friends, and his ship (Calypso), he sets out to explore the oceans and to share the experience through his films. Along the way, he discovers amazing creatures the world has never seen and continues to innovate – improving his diving apparatus and even inventing cages for him and his crew to be able to film sharks without being eaten!

We really enjoyed learning more about Jacques Cousteau, including the extra details provided in the Author’s Note at the back and the surprise pull-out page. The story is informative without being dry – this is no “laundry list” of events in the life of a famous explorer. This story is about a little boy’s dream that grew into a man’s passion to become a manfish and fly beneath the waves – and how he worked to share that passion with the world. I think Ms. Berne does a wonderful job of conveying the feeling of wonder that the ocean inspired in Jacques, and which he hoped to inspire in everyone else.


Day 155 – Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea

I have always enjoyed looking at maps, committing historical charts to memory and covering my bedroom walls as a teenager with political maps swiped from my dad’s National Geographic magazines. I still have a world map covering a wall in my office; I think understanding political borders and geographic proximity helps immensely with understanding what is happening in the world around us. Of course, all of that fascination with maps is focused mostly on land masses, which only cover about 30% of the Earth. What about the over 70% of the world that is covered in water – mostly oceans? With beaches and oceans being our focus for June, what better time to “dive a little deeper” into the subject of mapping the oceans…so tonight we read a book called “Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea” by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raúl Colón, a fascinating and beautifully decorated biography of Marie Tharp, who was the first person to map the ocean floor.puzzle

When Mary was young, her father was a cartographist, and her love of maps began while watching her father do his work. His job took him and his family all over the country, and by the time she graduated high school, Mary had attended 17(!) different schools. When she went to college, Mary realized that scientists really know very little about the seafloor. When Mary graduated, she was ready to research the ocean, and be a scientist, but science wasn’t ready for Mary (me: c’mon science!). One firm told her they did not need any more file clerks when she tried to apply for a scientific position, and scientists at the Oceans Studies lab at Columbia University in New York told her it was bad luck to have a woman on a ship (so she could not go out on the research ships). Fortunately, Mary was not easily discouraged. She “bit her tongue” and with the help of a friend at Columbia, she decided to try and map the ocean floor anyway. She began to collect data from soundings taken by the lab’s research ships. As she pieced the puzzle together, Mary realized that – yes – there were in fact mountains (and valleys) under the ocean. She also found a deep crack running down the middle of the Atlantic (the Mid-Atlantic Ridge), supporting the theory held by a minority of scientists that the Earth’s surface was covered by a series of interlocking plates (Plate Tectonics). Using different colors for different depths, and engaging the services of a landscape painter from Austria, Mary finally had her masterpiece – the first map of the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Mary had always tried to think big, and in the end it paid off: her maps changed the way people looked at the world.

We really enjoyed this book – beautiful artwork, maps, an inspirational life story, maps, and an amazing woman who bucked the status quo to forever change the world for the better. With two girls, that last item is particularly important to us. Our oldest was especially inspired – her soul fired by anger at the closed-mindedness of the scientific establishment when Mary began her quest, and filled with intense admiration at Mary’s perseverance. It really is a wonderful book (whether you have daughters or not). Also – don’t forget to read the passage in the back of the book, which shines more light on Mary’s life.