Sunday, April 26, 2009

Life in the sea - poetry and biography

The ocean has fascinated people throughout the ages. I remember as a child watching Jacques Cousteau's television specials and being enthralled. There is something almost magical about undersea animals. Their lives are so far away from ours, so different and yet so graceful. I'd like to recommend three books about sea creatures: a biography of Jacques Cousteau and two poetry books.
Manfish: A story of Jacques Cousteau
written by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Eric Puybaret
CA: Chronicle Books, 2008.
ages 5 - 8
Even as a little boy, Jacques Cousteau loved the water. He dreamed that he could fly underwater. He was also fascinated by machines, taking apart and inventing all types of gadgets. As a young man, he started to dive underwater, but he wanted to stay under water longer than just one breath at a time. So he invented the aqualung to help him breathe under water. "Below the surface, Jacques swam and glided and dove. He did flips and somersalts. He stood upside down on one finger, and laughed bubbles into the sea."

The beautiful illustrations in Manfish will enchant readers and invite them to learn more about our ocean life. As Jacques explores the depths of the ocean, readers open a verticle double spread, so they get the feeling of diving deep, deep down into the ocean. Perfect for kids in 1st and 2nd grade.
in the swim
poems and paintings by Douglas Florian
CA: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1997.
ages 4 - 7
in the swim, is a book of poems and paintings by Douglas Florian. It's full of short, funny poems about all sorts of sea animals and fish. One of my favorite poems is:
The Piranhas
It's widely known
That grown piranhas
Are long on teeth
But short on manners.

(c) Douglas Florian
Kids will laugh at the different poems and paintings Florian creates. Another favorite explains the sawfish: "My spendid saw's/ for goring fishes-/ I eat them raw/ And don't do dishes." For a fuller look, check out Google Books where you can preview some of the artwork with their poems.

Hotel Deep, Light verse from dark water, provides a different poetry experience of ocean animals - a bit more complex, but also very evocative.
Hotel Deep: Light verse from dark water
Poems and paintings by Kurt Cyrus
FL: Harcourt, Inc. 2005
ages 7 - 10
Kurt Cyrus paints detailed scenes of ocean life, full of action and movement. Hotel Deep contains 22 linked poems that loosely tell the story of a sardine that has been separated from the rest of the school of fish, and now explores the ocean deep all by himself. Here is a favorite of mine. The sardine is swimming past some rocks on the ocean floor.
I'm a stone. A simple stone,
overgrown with crust and week.
You can see I'm just a stone.
Not a stonefish. No, indeed!

Just a random chunk of rubble
At the bottom of the sea.
I'm as harmless as a bubble.
Who could be afraid of me?

Trust your eyes. I'm just a stone.
Come in closer. Then you'll see.

Kids will love pouring over the paintings in this book, finding all the hidden surprises. I found it a little hard to follow these poems as a clear story of what happened to the little sardine, but they did contain lots of fun surprises. The poems worked much better when I dipped into individual ones and shared them with kids.

Love nonfiction? Check out Nonfiction Monday - today it's hosted by Simply Science.

1 comment:

  1. I can't decide which I like better, the title or the cover art of Manfish! Thanks for telling us about this one, also Hotel Deep! (I've read the Florian--very funny.)