The theme for summer reading in Texas for 2022 is “Oceans of Possibilities.” I am going to focus on the ocean for this column and possibilities in my July column.
There is a plus and a minus to writing a column that is themed and related to our community. I don’t get to read only what I want very often. However, the plus is that I read books I never would have otherwise, and get to share them with you. I hope you branch out beyond your usual reading path with me. Every book I review is one I believe others will enjoy.
Spectacular is a word I selldom use in a book review, but Underwater Wild (Craig Foster and Ross Frylinck, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021, 321 pages, $50) is certainly that. Foster has been diving into the kelp forest off the coast of South Africa since he was a child, and he shares the beauty and the scientific and emotional discoveries he has made. Diving every day without a wetsuit or oxygen tanks, he searches for a conjunction with the creatures of this forest and what he calls primal joy. Frylinck is an occasional companion in the dives, and he is often reluctant and filled with angst.
The photos in this massive book inspire awe. Foster describes each photo in depth and you feel the joy he gets from each discovery. Frylinck has interwoven essays on his search for peace and satisfaction. There is a different typeface for the two authors. If I were reading the book again, I would read the two separately, with Foster’s contributions taking precedence.
A stunning 2020 documentary, My Octopus Teacher (directed by Pippa Erlich and James Reed, available on Netflix) was made of Craig Foster in his kelp forest as he spends a year befriending an octopus and learning about her surroundings. It won many awards, including an Oscar in 2021 for best documentary. The documentary is ethereally beautiful and haunting.
We hear of the deep ocean that it is dark and impenetrable. What has been discovered is the science of bioluminescence. One of the pioneers of this study, Edith Widder, has written a memoir titled Below the Edge of Darkness: A Memoir of Exploring Light and Life in the Deep Sea (Widder, Random House, 2021, 329 pages, $28). Most of the animals in the deep ocean are bioluminescent, and those who have been lucky enough to experience seeing this display describe it as magical and compare it to the most splendid of fireworks shows.
Widder combines scientific information with the adventures she has come across during the many years of her professional life. Her exuberance for her little-known world is captivating.
Essentially a museum in a book, oceanarium (Loveday Trinick, illustrated by Teagan White, Big Picture Press, 2022, 96 pages, $37.99) uses an oversize format to highlight the denizens of the deep. As we begin, there is a double-page spread of the ocean’s zones and the depth of habitats. Each gallery has a focus on one aspect of ocean life: plankton, cnidaria, mollusks and echinoderms, arthropods, fish, mammals, birds and reptiles. It ends with a discussion of our relationship with the ocean and its importance to the survival of the planet. The large size allows for detailed drawings.
Water is what made planet Earth habitable. It is amazing the variety of settings that incorporates water and the different flora and fauna to be found in each setting. Earth’s Aquarium: Discover 15 Real-Life Water Worlds (Alexander Kaufman, illustrated by Mariana Rodrigues, Magic Cat Publishing, 2021, 68 pages, $24.99) allows us to explore different water worlds in a large format book with vivid double-page spreads.
Each habitat is allotted four pages, two double-page spreads. The first shows the habitat, such as a salt marsh, sea ice or fast-moving fresh water. The second details the flora and fauna with illustrations and descriptions. With 15 worlds to delve into, it becomes obvious how important water is to our life the world over.
Sharks are among the oldest animals on Earth today and have survived because they are expert at adaptation. Sharks: A Mighty Bite-y History (Miriam Forster, illustrated by Gordy Wright, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022, 80 pages, $24.99) operates on a format that attributes this survival to a special toolbox that is unique to sharks. Pages with a red toolbox discuss things like a shark’s shape, skin, nurseries, cartilage, teeth, etc.
The text moves through millions of years of history and numerous species of sharks. There have been five great extinction events in fossil history, and sharks have been in existence for four of them and survived. With an oversized format and excellent illustrations, sharks makes learning about these incredible creatures a pleasure.
In an oversized board book format, Creature Features Ocean (illustrated by Natasha Durley, Big Picture Press, 2021, 24 pages, $17.99) uses each double-page spread to highlight a variety of flora and fauna found in the ocean. Putting the focus on elements that appeal to young readers, the pages bear titles like “Gorgeous Glow,” “Spectacularly Spotted” and “Funny Faces.” There are so many things to discover and wonder about, the book should be a real favorite.
It is a pleasure to find a delightful book that is original and captivating in its presentation. The reader enters the venue, the beautiful seaside at sunset and settles in for The Crab Ballet (Renee M. LaTulippe, illustrated by Cecile Metzger, Cameron Kids, 2022, 32 pages, $17.99). The inhabitants of the ocean perform a ballet, told in rhyme with all of the vocabulary of the ballet woven into the text.
The lovely pastel illustrations enhance the story being told, being light and flowing in movement. The book ends with a glossary of the ballet terms. So many young children take ballet classes, and this would be a perfect recital gift rather than the standard rose!
Thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, where darkness prevails, the Anglerfish: The Seadevil of the Deep (Elaine Alexander, illustrated by Fiona Fogg, Candlewick Press, 2022, 32 pages, $17.99) makes its home. Life begins near the surface, where for three years the anglerfish grows and tries to avoid the many dangers that abound. When her fishing rod — a bioluminescent lure — sprouts from her forehead, the anglerfish is ready to descend to the dark levels of the ocean.
The life cycle of this fearsome looking fish is revealed in spare text and stunning illustrations in anglerfish. The back matter provides more extensive information on the anglerfish and other fish that inhabit the deep ocean.
A small injured loggerhead turtle was rescued in 1997 by a Japanese fishing crew that named her Yoshi and took her to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa. She spent 20 years at the aquarium, healing and growing. She was released back into the ocean in 2017, with a small satellite tracker attached. Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle’s Incredible Journey Home (Lindsay Moore, Greenwillow Books, 2022, 64 pages, $18.99) tells her story from rescue to a successful return to her home.
The text is lyrical and the watercolor illustrations provide the perfect context. The back matter includes a map of Yoshi’s journey, a diagram of the anatomy of a loggerhead turtle, information about the ocean she traversed, and how tracking devices placed on animals work. This is an excellent example of a wonderful blend of story and information.
Along the Pacific coast, when the tide goes out, tide pools are created among the rocks. These pools are alive with creatures from the sea. as the sun gets hotter, The Tide Pool Waits (Candace Fleming, illustrated by Amy Hevron, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, 2022, 40 pages, $18.99) protecting itself until the ocean returns and everything comes to life again. This mingling of science and art will appeal to children of all ages. The back matter identifies the tide animals that live in a tide pool and the four zones where they reside.
A young girl and her mother take a Seaside Stroll (Charles Trevino, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga, Charlesbridge, 2021, 32 pages, $16.99) in the winter. The sand and a tide pool are replete with creatures from the ocean. A dip in the tide pool results in a sopping walk home and a warm shower. Every word in the story begins with the letter S, which could lead to a fun activity for the reader.
Another walk along seaside leads a child to contemplate the inhabited little houses (Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek, Greenwillow Books, 2022, 40 pages, $18.99) she collects. Is the sound she hears when she places the shell to her ear dela the ghost of the inhabitant? How far have the shells traveled, and how old are the rocks she finds? Her grandparents tell her that there is much to learn about the ocean and her questions will lead her to answers.
The youngest children can get a glimpse of the ocean in Little Fish’s Ocean (Lucy Cousins, Candlewick Press, 2022, 10 pages, $9.99). With the bright colors and childlike illustrations Cousins is known for, the 10 pages with fold-out flaps mention many of the elements in the above books. We see a tide pool, a turtle, an anglerfish, the deep ocean and a coral reef. The great beginning book for knowledge about the ocean.
Look up the number of oceans to be found on Earth and you will find different numbers. Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean (Patricia Newman, photographs by Annie Crawley, Millbrook Press, 2021, 64 pages, $31.99) clearly states that there is only one ocean, and it affects all of us who live on the planet.
Highlighting three areas of the ocean, this book readers about the problems that are facing the life of the ocean and what some people are doing to help save it. In addition, we learn what we can do to help. If the ocean fails, life on Earth fails. There are QR codes spaced throughout the book that allow the reader to dive deeper into the topics.
We know more about space than we do about the ocean on our own planet. There are scientists and adventurers who explore both, and Astronaut Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact (Jennifer Swanson, National Geographic Kids, 2018, 96 pages, $18.99) provides a detailed description of the similarities and differences in the environments, training and living conditions. The book also discusses what drives humans to explore and discoveries that have changed our lives. The design of the book breaks up the pages with photos and questions for the reader, and includes activities with careful instructions. The text is clear and engaging and the photos are excellent.
Check the Denton Public Library for these books and more. Our local Barnes & Noble will have a display of these books and others related to the theme, and Patchouli Joe’s Books & Indulgences will carry some of them.