Sunday, December 13, 2009

Investigating the animals of the ocean deep (ages 7 - 12)

Most of the world's surface is made up of ocean, and yet we know so little about its animals and ecosystems.  Whenever students at our school study ocean animals, they are fascinated.  Two new books about ocean animals really draw in a range of readers, from 2nd grade through 6th grade.  The first follows scientists who explore ocean predators, and the second is a visual representation of animals living at different levels as you descend the depths of the ocean.
Prowling the Seas: Exploring the Hidden World of Ocean Predators
by Pamela S. Turner
NY: Walker, 2009.
ages 8 - 12
Recently, scientists have begun to study ocean predators such as sharks, tuna and sea turtles using high-tech satellite tags to track their movements.  These tags help scientists start to answer questions about where these predators breed, feed and travel.  Pamela Turner (The Frog Scientist, and A Life in the Wild) follows scientists connected with the TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Predators) project, as they study four different species of ocean predators in the Pacific: loggerhead turtles, bluefin tuna, white sharks and sooty shearwaters. My children loved reading about the Great Turtle Race, following eleven turtles as they migrated from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands.  I was fascinated to learn about the bluefin tuna, a warm-blooded fish that swims an average of 40 miles each day.  The fish in the study crossed the Pacific three times, swimming from California to an area near Japan in less than 600 days!  Turner draws children into the story, not just of the creatures, but of the scientists who study them.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
by Steve Jenkins
MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
ages 7 - 12
Steve Jenkins is a brilliant artist who uses his talents to help children follow their fascination with animals.   Down, Down, Down brings readers from a bird's eye view of the ocean down to the far depths of the deepest spot in the ocean, the Marianas Trench, investigating the different animals that live at various levels.  Jenkins uses torn paper collages to bring over 50 animals to life.  At each level, the animals swim against darkening backgrounds, sunny blue at the upper levels of the ocean, growing darker and darker as you descend.  Each full double-page spread has a paragraph explaining about the environment at that level, and how the light, temperature and pressure affect the animals.  A bar running down the far right of the page shows the depth as you progress down.  For a look into the book, see several of the spreads at the blog 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast. While second graders will be fascinated simply looking at the pictures and talking about the animals, Jenkins provides plenty of engrossing information both on the pages and in the end-pages for older ocean enthusiasts.

Throughout both of these books is the message that we have much to explore and understand in the ocean.  As Jenkins writes, "Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the globe’s surface, and well over half the planet lies beneath water more than a mile…deep. We have explored only a fraction of the oceans. In fact, more humans have walked on the moon than have visited the deepest spot in the sea."

Full disclosure: I am in a book club with Pam Turner and have thoroughly enjoyed her other books.  She spoke at our school's recent book fair, and all of our copies of Prowling the Seas sold out in the first few days! The review copy Prowling the Seas was kindly sent by the publisher.  The review copy of Down, Down, Down came from my local public library.

Find copies of both at a public library near you using WorldCat: Prowling the Seas and Down, Down, Down.  If you purchase them on Amazon using these links, Great Kid Books will receive a small commission, which will be used to buy more books to review.

Nonfiction Monday is being hosted today by In Need of Chocolate.  Stop by to see some other great recommendations!


  1. Thanks for participating in Non-Fiction Monday! We love Down, Down and Down and I've got Prowling the Seas on my list to request at the library since my daughter can't read enough about ocean creatures right now :)

  2. You're right, most of us truly don't know enough about oceans and ocean life when you think about the amount of space occupied by oceans. I am sitting here in amazement over the number of miles the tuna swims in the example you gave!

  3. These are great! I'm going to order them for our middle school. We need more science books. I did love The Frog Scientist and thought it would work well at this middle school. I'm glad to see that you put it in the same age range. Thank you.