Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ocean Non-fiction

About 70% of our earth's surface is covered with water— cold & deep oceans, gushing rivers, still lakes, all teeming with life. These waters hold many mysteries, many creatures yet undiscovered; plus the many creatures we've been fortunate enough to encounter thanks to our insatiable curiosity and yearning to understand our world. We have explored barely 5% of the ocean so far.

Until now I had not heard of  Mola Mola and Portuguese Man-of-war and Siphonophore and Loosejaw Stoplight Fish and Hatchett Fish and Viper Fish and Black Swallower and Vampire Squid and Snipe Eel and  Tripod Fish and Giant Tube Worm and Oarfish and Hairy Angler and  such...

Although I'd be hesitant to meet them face to face, I am glad the kids and I got to know about these wondrous creatures through some amazing books.

Without further ado, here are a few of the non-fiction picture books about ocean creatures listed in no particular order.

Down Down Down
by Steve Jenkins

I have tremendous respect/awe/admiration for Steve Jenkins. Many of his books are a huge hit with the kids and an inspiration for me.

And sure enough, Steve Jenkins' Down Down Down became an instant favorite with us thanks to the amazing art work and simple yet rich text.

Moving from the top Sunlight zone to the Twilight zone to the Dark zone to the Abyssal plain and Hydrothermal vents to the deepest Marianas Trench, the book showcases creatures that have adapted to living in these zones and co-existing with others.

Jenkins' trademark cut-paper collage work and choice of creatures to showcase are brilliant as always.

[image source:]
[view gallery at]

Partners in the Sea (Undersea Encounters)
by Mary Jo Rhodes & David hall
photos by David Hall

Undersea Encounters is a series of books by Mary Jo Rhodes. Partners in the Sea is particularly fascinating as it explains symbiosis - mutualism and commensal relationships and other partnerships among the ocean creatures.

Not just the classic sea anemone and clownfish, but, many such curious relationships are showcased in child-friendly text and gorgeous photographs. A small shrimp cleaning the inside of a grouper's mouth, Coleman's shrimp riding on the back of sea urchins, not to mention sponges and corals and the animals they host and hide...

[image source: Mary Jo Rhodes website]

How to Hide an Octopus & Other Sea Creatures
by Ruth Heller

Along the same vein as How To Hide A Parakeet & Other Birds and other such books in this series, I love the presentation - the illustrations and text.

Octopus changes its color to camouflage and hide from predators, much like a chameleon.

As quick as a wink, it turns to pink
or green or blue or any hue,
This creature is an octopus and very often hides
by changing to the color over which it glides.

With lilting text and starkly beautiful illustration, the book comes alive with various sea creatures in their natural habitat, from cuttlefish to sargassum fish, sea dragon to decorator crabs (a favorite from Partners in the Sea book), we learn how these creatures can hide in plain sight and thus escape predators.

[image source: better world books]

Sea Jellies: From Corals to Jelly Fish
by Sharon Sharth

Animals In Order series of books by Children's Press (also Rookie Read-About series) has a collection of non-fiction books that go one step further in helping children understand the classification of living things.  The Order of Living Things section explains the Kingdom, Phylum and Class for the creatures presented in the book. Sea Horses, Pipefishes and Their Kin by Sara Swan Miller is another in this series that we liked.

Each double-page has a photo of a particular creature on the right with the Family, Common Example, Genus and Species information on the left, along with a page of details about that particular specimen. And it is further grouped - for example, Sea Jellies are grouped as Open Ocean Sea Jellies, Rocky Shore Sea Jellies, Coral Reef Sea Jellies, and Swamp Sea Jellies.

The book also talks about what affects their existence and the conservation efforts needed to preserve the bio diversity.

[image source:]

Sea Horse
by Christine Butterworth
illustrations by John Lawrence

For a long time, no one was sure what kind of animal the sea horse was. Its scientific name is Hippocampus, which means "horselike sea monster".

The inside of front and back covers shows the different kinds of sea horses from Dwarf to Short-snouted to Barbour's to Pacific to Pygmy to Zebra to Long-snouted, to name a few.

The mixed media artwork illustrations are lovely in this book which tells the story of sea horses in quite an engaging and entertaining manner, focusing on Barbour's sea horse.

[image source:]

The Usborne Big Book of Big Sea Creatures 
and Some Little Ones too
by Minna Lacey
illustrated by Fabiano Fiorin

With four giant fold-outs, there is plenty to see in this book. Illustrations of the sea creatures is accompanied by a short few sentences about them. The relative sizes of the creatures are well presented.

Besides the usual whales and other massive mammals, the soft-bodied octopuses and jellyfish and squid, and the ever-fascinating sharks, we learn about other creatures too, like the Humphead Wrasse, Goliath Grouper,Ornate Wobbegong, Conger Eel, Beluga Sturgeon and Atlantic Sailfish...

Right along with Steve Jenkins' Down Down Down, this book was quite an obsession for the kids.

[image source:]

Dolphins, sharks, penguins, and more!
by Johnna Rizzo
introduced by Sylvia A. Earle

This large square book with an adorable photograph on the cover is packed with tidbits about dolphins, sharks, penguins and more, as the title says.

One of the favorite pages in the book is towards the back in the section called "Layers of Life" where 50 sea creatures are listed and arranged in the various zones in the accompanying picture.

Some interesting creatures we learnt about from this book include Moonfish, Barrel-eye fish, Bell jelly, Comb jellyfish, Black seadevil, Vampire octopus, and Fangtooth.

The attractive feature for me was the Ocean Extremes pages which have to be held up vertically to behold the full glory. From the Bizarre Creatures of the Deep to Wild Wonders like the Mid-Atlantic Range of mountains, Hydrothermal vents, and Marianas Trench, and cool advances like the JIM suit and ROVs and Ice Buckets and Super Subs... a lot to learn about not the just creatures but how to get to where they are and study them.

20 Ways You Can Protect The Ocean section is practical and motivating for the young reader.

[image source: google books]

Turtle Tide: The Ways of Sea Turtles
by Stephen R. Swinburne
illustrated by Bruce Hiscock

The best part of this book was how it impressed upon the young mind (and the adult reader) the laws of nature and the survival struggle that many animals face.

A female Leatherback sea turtle makes the exhausting journey, hauling herself to the beach she was born in, to lay her eggs, digging and burying— a 100 of them.

A few eggs are stolen and eaten by raccoons. Now there are only 64 out of the 100.

The 64 hatch and scramble out of the sand steadily heading towards the ocean. On the way, a few hatchlings are eaten by Ghost Crabs and now there are only 22 out of the 100.

As the surviving hatchlings scramble faster and faster to the ocean guided by an internal compass, a few more are eaten by a waiting blue heron. And now, there are only 10 of the 100.

The ten manage to plunge into the relative safety of water only to be eaten by a cruising Sand shark. What was 100 is now only 2.

A pair of laughing gulls out hunting for fish for their own babies grab the two remaining, but one of them drops a turtle hatchling who disappears in a wash of breaking waves.

And out of the 100, only ONE hopefully survives!

A gripping drama unfolds in this narration as we root for the turtle hatchlings to head for safety and simply survive. This made the kids appreciate what a privileged position humans have in terms of survival - we have plenty of food, relative safety, and very little threat from natural predators...

The illustrations are simply amazing!

[image source: Bruce Hiscock website]

W is for Waves
by Marie and Roland Smith
illustrated by John Megahan

Quite wordy and for older readers, this book is one of a series of books by Sleeping Bear Press on various themes, like S is for Shamrock, G is for Galaxy, W is for Wind.

For the younger reader, the short rhyming verses and the pictures were interesting enough. For example, the page on bio-luminescence has this simple verse
L is for Lights,
some creatures have their own.
Great to have if the lights go out
at night when you're all alone.

M is for Mollusks.
This popular group
often end up
in somebody's soup.

[image source: Sleeping Bear Press]

Biographies: William Beebe and Sylvia Earle

Biographies are inspiring and heart-warming. Very few picture book biographies manage to present the essence of the person without distorting the image to fit the narration. One of my favorites is Manfish, The Story of Jacques Cousteau.

Into The Deep: The Life of Naturalist and Explorer William Beebe
by David Sheldon

Biggest attraction in this book was Beebe's Bathysphere and the mysterious creature he encountered. We may ever know what the mysterious creature was that Beebe glimpsed during his deep sea dive, but we learn about his indefatigable zeal, his persistence, and his dedication to studying the mysteries of the deep.

[image source:]

Life In The Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia A. Earle
by Claire A. Nivola

The happy discovery in this book for the kid was that Sylvia A. Earle was inspired by William Beebe and his Bathysphere and constructed her own deep sea diving one-person submersible and went deeper than anyone had done until then. Alone!

Sylvia A. Earle is an inspiration. She is passionately fond of the sea, "the blue heart of the planet." She didn't just want to dive down for a quick look, she wanted to live in the sea. And she got to do it for two weeks, living in Tektite II, a deep sea station.

Every spoonful of water in the deep ocean, Sylvia says, is brimming with extraordinary forms of life. 

[image source and view more images at Macmillan]

Just for Fun:
Usborne 1001 Things to Spot in the Sea
by Katie Daynes
illustrated by Teri Gower

'I Spy' style of books are always popular with the kids. Each page in this book presents a scene and lists the number of a certain type of creature/thing to find. For example, in the Underwater Forest spread, amid the sea kelp are a host of creatures swimming about. We are asked to identify 10 Garibaldi fish, 5 Black rock fish, 8 Kelp bass and so on.

While the younger kid was fascinated with the book, I found the illustrations a bit confusing. There were always other creatures shown on the picture but not listed among the items to find, and not much info was given about them.

[image source: usborne catalog]


Choxbox said...

We have several of these and must commend you on the absolutely excellent set of books you have picked. I particularly love the Ruth Heller one - every one of her books is a treasure.

p.s.: Feel chuffed every time I find you have picked a book I did - passing the Sheels test basically! Wish your kids were older than mine!

Choxbox said...


Sheela said...

Lol, Choxie, at "passing the Sheels test" bit :) So many more wonderful books... I'll have to add it in later.

the mad momma said...

Oh Sheels, the brat is currently obsessed with sea creatures and I'm so tempted to buy every single one. Thanks for a great selection.

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