Sea – book reviews

Sea – book reviews © Jason and Clare www.flickr.com

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Anne Faundez selects some of the best sea-themed stories and nautical non-fiction to enhance your topic and stock your library shelves.

The Sea-thing Child

The Sea thing Child

Title: The Sea-thing Child (PB)
Author: Russell Hoban
Illustrator: Patrick Benson
Publisher: Walker Books
Price: £6.99

A lost sea-thing child is tossed ashore one stormy night. A bedraggled scrap of scales and feathers, he’s sad and lonely – a ‘little heap of fright’ who has lost his bearings and doesn’t know where to turn. So he builds himself a shelter, an igloo made from pebbles and bits of sea-glass, and shuts himself inside.

A fiddler crab awakens him and engages him in timid conversation. Together, they face the fearful world, gaining mutual strength and comfort. One night, the sea-thing child finds the confidence to walk along the beach where the river meets the sea. There, he meets an eel, and later an albatross, both of whom inspire him with curiosity and self-belief.

The story traces the emotional journey from small beginnings to courage and selfhood. It is at once powerful, humorous and surreal, sweeping the reader along in a sea of words rich in resonance and meaning. The meticulously hatched illustrations constantly shift from the golden tones of day to the inky blacks of night, so echoing the sea-thing child’s own emotional turmoil. Now a classic, this profound, poetic story has much to offer at different levels of understanding.

Oceans Alive

Oceans Alive

Title: Oceans Alive (HB)
Author: Angie and Andy Belcher
Publisher: Harper Collins, Big Cat – Ruby/Band 14
Price: £5.30 each

There’s much to learn from this thoughtful and well-structured small-format book. Topics include an investigation of the plants and animals that live in the sea and their interdependence, the importance of coral reefs and why they are endangered, different types of pollution and their effects on sea creatures, overfishing and the scientific discoveries that benefit human health. There are also chapters on how we can all do our bit to look after the sea and its inhabitants, rescuing a killer whale and safeguarding Hooker sea lions from extinction. Particularly effective is a double-page poster using differentiated headings, bullet points and emotive photos to contrast a healthy ocean with a polluted one. A glossary, an index and notes for using the book in a guided reading session complete this impressive title.

The Mousehole Cat

the mousehole cat

Title: The Mousehole Cat (PB)
Author: Antonia Barber
Illustrator: Nicola Bayley
Publisher: Walker Books
Price: £5.99 each

Mowzer the cat lives an idyllic existence in the fishing village of Mousehole, where he has trained his owner, fisherman Tom, to perfection. Tom takes great care of him, cooking up a treat of tasty dishes, among them kedgeree, fish stew and star-gazy pie. One terrible winter, a great storm, personified as the Great Storm-Cat, prowls the seas so prohibiting the fishermen from venturing out. Soon, the village folk go hungry – and Tom feels duty-bound to set out to sea with Mowzer as companion, to face the storm’s wrath. And so it is that the Great Storm-Cat, pouncing and leaping, plays havoc with the defenceless boat, inspiring Mowzer to begin her mesmerising serenade.

Based on a Cornish folktale, the story deftly captures the duality of the sea as both giver and destroyer. Words and images brilliantly contrast the warmth of the fireside kitchen and the abundance of seafood delicacies with the wild landscape of swirling waves and lashing winds as the Great Storm-Cat engulfs Tom’s helpless fishing boat. The illustrations are exquisite, consisting of decorative borders and framed pictures dazzling with detail and jewel-like colours.

Barry the Fish with Fingers and the Hairy Scary Monster

barry and the fish with fingers

Title: Barry the Fish with Fingers and the Hairy Scary Monster(PB)
Author: Sue Hendra
Publisher: Simon and Schuster,
Price: £6.99 each

Barry puts his fingers to good use in this enchanting story of life among friends at the bottom of the ocean. Barry loves to play hide-and-seek with his peers. Since he’s so clever, he’s usually the one who counts aloud while his friends hide. After much searching, Puffy the puffer fish settles on the perfect hiding place, an old shipwreck. But the eerie darkness soon scares him and makes him wish for Barry. Then he brushes up against a hideous, long-haired monster – an encounter that quickly propels him back out into the open sea where his friends anxiously await him. Thereupon, Barry sets off to investigate the monster, which triggers an astonishing, thoroughly satisfying turn of events.

This gentle story of big-hearted Barry is delightful, and its message – the need for kindness and tolerance – is clearly conveyed through a simple text and exuberant pictures in bright lollipop colours that capture the richness of deep-sea life.

Shadows under the Sea

Shadows under the Sea

Title: Shadows under the Sea (PB)
Author: Sally Grindley
Publisher: Simon and Schuster,
Price: £4.99 each

Joe and his family are spending part of their summer holidays on an island in the Philippines where his dad’s job is to photograph an endangered species of seahorse. Once there, Joe learns about the importance of coral reefs and mangrove swamps and the destruction of ecosystems by humans motivated by greed. He makes friends with young islander Dario, who encourages him to join in a game of baseball, and comes across two sinister figures, whom he is sure are up to no good.

The book is divided into short chapters perfect for developing reading stamina, and is crammed with snippets of information on fragile ecosystems, local wildlife, endangered species and the dangers of overfishing. More important, it is also an intriguing adventure with many a twist and turn that grips the reader and ensnares Joe in the murky world of dynamite fishing.

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