Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In the Sea, by David Elliott and Holly Meade (ages 4 - 9)

Do you share poetry with your children at home? I wish I shared more with my own children. Just a dash here and there. Not to belabor, but just to add a little flavoring. We especially love children's poetry that is combined with illustrations that pull you in and hold your attention. A new favorite is David Elliott and Holly Meade's beautiful book In the Sea. These short poems twist words and phrases to create playful look at sea creatures.

In the Sea
by David Elliott
illustrated by Holly Meade
NY: Candlewick, 2012
ages 4 - 9
available at your local library, favorite bookstore and on Amazon
preview available on Google Books
With grace and skill, Elliott and Meade take well known sea animals and help us look at them in new ways. Combining playful, short poems with dynamic woodblock prints, they draw your attention in and ask you to think just a little more about each of these animals.

Each poem starts with what a child knows, but then extends the image just a bit more. See Elliott's poem on the dolphin:
"The Dolphin
He jumps.
He leaps.
He twirls.
He spins.
He's the jester
of the briny deep,
an acrobat with fins."
David Elliott's poems are completely accessible to children, and yet they create associations the reader might not have thought of. These would make excellent models for children's own writing - strong, active verbs and images. Elliott's humor will also definitely appeal to children. In an interview with Jules Danielson at 7 Impossible Things, Elliott said, "No matter what I’m writing, I’m trying to demonstrate for young readers the power and the beauty, the resilience and the play in their language." I so appreciate that he can do that in a way that is accessible to young children, meeting them at their level and then stretching them just a bit.

Holly Meade's illustrations grabbed me from the very beginning. The giant sea turtle on the cover, with its dappled shell swimming in the aquamarine ocean - just beautiful. The illustrations throughout combine bold, striking woodcut prints with soft hues from watercolor paint. She's written more about her woodblock printing process, describing the indirect path taken to create these prints - a path that results in "images that have a singular boldness and insistence."

The poems and the images combine together in perfect harmony. Just take a look at this page about the sea horse:
The movement of the kelp and bubbles carry your eye right to the swimming sea horse. The open space of the water leaves enough room so that you attention is not overwhelmed by the illustrations, but can drift down to the words. The large font size and comfortable line spacing makes this easy for young children to read by themselves. And the colors - well, they just make me smile from ear to ear.

Elliott and Meade have collaborated on two other volumes of animal poetry picture books: On the Farm and In the Wild. They hope to extend this series to include two new volumes. I couldn't be happier. Head over to Anita Silvey's Book-a-Day Almanac to read about On the Farm. In the Sea has received a starred review from Booklist.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. Hi Mary Ann, this is not the first time that I've seen a review of this book, thus I am deeply intrigued. It has received quite a number of positive reviews. I am hoping I find this in our community libraries in Singapore. :)

  2. Wonderful news! I love Elliott's ON THE FARM and I'm glad to see him paired up with Holly Meade's illustrations again - she has such an energetic line for Elliott's books (though quite a different style for HUSH! A THAI LULLABY - equally gorgeous, just different.) Thanks for the heads-up.

  3. Love this! These would be great for Poem in my Pocket day (is this a national thing? I know here in Seattle all the schools do it.).