Berne, Jennifer. How the Sea Came to Be (and All the Creatures in It). Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-0-802-85478-0. $18.99. 56 p. Grades 2-5.
4.6 billion years ago our Earth was formed. For the next 600 million years the Earth’s surface was hot enough to melt rock. As the Earth began to cool, water formed from condensation, creating clouds and rain. Our oceans were born, and along with them came the first signs of single-cell life. Two billion years ago oxygen began to fill the oceans and atmosphere leading to more complex lifeforms in the oceans. This beautiful nonfiction picture book tells the story of the creation of the oceans and the life within them in rhymed verse. From the fiery start in bold reds and oranges, through the cooling period in icy shades of blue, and the eventual growth of life in luscious greens, the illustrations depict thousands of pre-historic and current day ocean creatures with detailed accuracy. End notes from the author and illustrator explain that our understanding of how the oceans formed is constantly evolving. This book’s information is based on what is currently known about the formation of the Earth, our oceans, and ocean life. Extensively illustrated factual information, recommendations for further research, reading, and viewing for students and educators as well as a selected biography, timeline, and glossary are all included.
THOUGHTS: A treasure trove of extensively researched information in a beautifully illustrated verse story. Useful as a read aloud, read alone, or elementary research resource.
Applegate, Katherine. Odder. Fiewel and Friends, 2022. 978-1-250-14742-4. $16.99. 288 p. Grades 3-6.
Odder is a southern sea otter with a whole lot of spunk. Scared of nothing, and always on the move, Odder loves to play. She especially loves to seek out human connection. Separated from her mother as a pup, Odder was rescued and rehabilitated by humans who taught her how to be an otter and returned her to the ocean. When her daring personality endangers a friend, Odder attempts to challenge a young shark. Severely injured, Odder is once again rescued by humans, who fear that their intense interaction with Odder from a young age has bonded her to humans. Odder’s endless fascination with humans has endangered her ability to survive in the wild. The rescue center decides she cannot be returned to the ocean. Once hunted for their fur, these adorable creatures are endangered. The humans realize they need to find a new way to rehabilitate abandoned and lost otter pups in order to save the species. Instead of having humans teach otters how to live in the wild, the center attempts to try to get Odder to adopt a newly abandoned otter pup. Though unwilling to mother the pup at first, Odder eventually befriends her young charge and teaches the baby otter how to be an otter and function in the wild. Based on the real-life stories of rescued sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. This is a beautiful story told in verse with delightfully detailed illustrations by Charles Santoso.
THOUGHTS: Applegate’s story-telling is absolutely gorgeous. This is a very moving story of love, family, and the effect of humans on the creatures in our environment. Many opportunities for further learning about endangered species and marine biology. Includes a glossary and author’s notes with suggestions for further study. Fans of Applegate’s books will devour this selection! The release date for this book is September 20, 2022.
Newman, Patricia. Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean. Photographs by Annie Crawley. Millbrook Press, 2021. 64 p. 978-1-541-58121-0. $31.99. Grades 5-8.
Writer Newman and diver Crawley team up for a second book, after the success of their first collaboration Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014). Their excitement over the beauty of the ocean is evident and contagious as they visit three distinct areas of ocean: the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Since Earth is about 70% ocean and 30% land, they contend that a better name for it would be Planet Ocean. The facts they share about the importance and wonder of the ocean and its creatures make it seem amazing that much of the ocean is yet unexplored because of its size and depth. In each location they highlight young people who are working to improve the health of the oceans. Examples include a group of children who regularly meet to clean their Indonesian beach of plastic and garbage that washes ashore daily, and Inupiat teen Eben Hopson, who started his own film company and has traveled the world to show his films and educate about the changing climate in his own town. Crawley states, “I know how important the ocean is to our daily lives, how fragile it is, and how much we’re changing it. I want kids and teens to speak up for our oceans” (7).
THOUGHTS: This is an engaging look at why our oceans matter, and it encourages young people to take action. Free teaching resources are available via Titlewave.
Newman, Patricia. Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2014. 978-1-4677-1283-5. 48 p. $23.00. Gr. 5+.
This book is a fabulous way to introduce young students to the effect that plastic has on our ecosystems, particularly the ocean. It contains fascinating information made very accessible to young students. The book details how each researcher became interested in ocean research, and their mission to change the way we think about plastic. It includes many fascinating photographs by Annie Crawley. I didn’t even know that an Ocean Garbage Patch existed (called the Pyre), let alone make attempts to reduce my plastic consumption. The book details how the currents of the different oceans converge to keep the Garbage Patch in one place. The book includes a glossary, source notes, hints to help, and items for further reading.
This book was not in one day, and a science teacher grabbed it. She then passed it on to the other science teachers. It is a little simplistic for the grade 8 students, but not overly so. It has spurred a movement in our school to recycle more, use reusable containers, and cut down on plastic use in general. Great to inspire STEM minded students for further study. It has had a global effect on my middle school.
363.738 Kathy Gilbride, North Pocono Middle and High School