Into The Blue
Five Picture Books That Bubble And Splash
On these steamy, hot summer days, there is nothing my family would rather do than jump into the blue. We gravitate to water, like playful otters, seeking out cool relief, as we splash and dive and kick and paddle. So when I found a handful of new picture books featuring watery landscapes, my kids were delighted to jump in, even though they knew they wouldn’t be getting wet.
Here’s a review of 5 picture books published this year that bubble and splash:
If You Want To See A Whale
In this quiet, contemplative picture book, a boy and his dog set out in search of a whale. With patience and constraint – for not looking at shapes in the clouds, nor roses, pelicans, or pirates is difficult – the boy realizes if you want to see a whale, you must wait and wait and wait. And even then a whale may lurk beneath the surface, just out of view. Delicate pencil and linoleum prints support the poetic text. The minimalist approach leaves room for the imagination to bubble and adds to the sense of calm that permeates the book.
If You Want to See a Whale. Written by Julie Fogliano, and illustrated by Erin Stead. Published By Roaring Brook Press, 2013.
A shy, long-lashed octopus lives on a beautiful but busy reef. Not liking to be noticed, she finds the enthusiastic attention of three seahorses unsettling. Using her skills of camouflage and ink she tries to hide from their attention, but finally decides to find a place all her own. Far from home, in another cozy cove, she feels the contentment of some time alone. She starts to wonder about her friends on the reef and returns home with fresh perspective. Colorful illustrations move with playful lines and depict the rich world of the coral reef. The implications of the story are broader than the social drama played out with Octopus, and stretch into the value of self-awareness.
Octopus Alone. Written and illustrated by Divya Srinivasan. Published by Viking, 2013.
Clark the Shark
In this humorous read-aloud we are introduced to Clark, a shark with a “zing, bang, and BOOM.” As he squeezes out of a yellow submarine school bus, we see he is the biggest, strongest student at Theodore Roosterfish Elementary. Clark loves life, he loves school, he loves his friends. But his wild enthusiasm combined with his enormous size often leads to loud disruptions in class, rowdy lunchtimes, and rough behavior at recess, making it hard for his ocean mates to handle. And eventually none of his friends want to be near him. Luckily his teacher, Mrs. Inkydink, knows how to help Clark stay cool in school. The rollicking storyline and lively illustrations will keep kids entertained and wanting more of this super-sized shark.
Clark the Shark. Written by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Guy Francis. Published by HarperCollins, 2013.
The Story of Fish and Snail
Everyday Fish leaves the shelter of the book and explores other books, while Snail waits eagerly for the stories Fish brings home. One day Fish returns excited by a story in a new book, a story with an ocean and treasure and pirates. But instead of telling Snail all about it, Fish wants to show Snail. But Snail does not want to leave the security of their book. Fish urges Snail to come out, and the stage is set for a fight that endangers their friendship. Told almost entirely in dialogue and illustrated with expressive pictures in watery tones of blues and greens that move and splash. The themes of friendship and stepping out of one’s comfort zone ripple throughout.
The Story of Fish and Snail. Written and Illustrated by Deborah Freedman. Published by Viking Children’s Books, 2013.
Papa’s Mechanical Fish
Virena’s Papa is a tinkerer, always creating inventions that don’t quite work out. Then one day, as the family is dropping lines off a pier on Lake Michigan, Virena asks, “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?” Papa has a flash of inspiration and starts building a submarine to take his family to the bottom of the lake. He builds a series of machines, which he tests out on Lake Michigan, each one growing bigger and better. With loving support from his family and his own crazy persistence, Papa’s mechanical fish takes them on a fantastic journey. A whimsical story with detailed illustrations of Papa’s blueprints to his failed test runs among the sturgeon. A fictionalized story about Lodner Phillips, who built one of the world’s earliest submarines in the 1850’s.
Papa’s Mechanical Fish. Written by Candace Fleming, and illustrated by Boris Kulikov. Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.