The weather’s warming up, so why not start thinking of ocean-y fun? I’ve got a couple of fun, new books that are perfect for fans of sea life!
Recommended for readers 4-7
Nate LOVES sharks. He’s got shark posters and books, spouts shark facts all day, and pretends to be a shark, chomping his way through the schoolyard and the dinner table. But Nate has a secret that’s keeping him from fully realizing his full shark potential: he can’t swim. And his school swim team is named The Sharks! Luckily, Nate has the tenacity of a great white, and takes lessons, determined to get on the team and show his brother – who’s also on the swim team – who the real shark is.
This is a fun story about overcoming fear. Nate loves sharks, but he’s got to learn how to swim; his first lesson doesn’t go so well – he feels like a “great white wimp” – but he doesn’t give up, and works harder, until he’s good enough to make it on the team and compete at the swim meet. The art is kid-friendly, with a great cover: Nate casts a shark-y shadow as he stands at the tiled floor of a pool area; the endpapers show wavy, bluish-green water with a single shark fin navigating the spreads. There’s a spread on different kinds of sharks, with fun facts (the blue shark eats until he throws up – and then goes back to eating). Kids, parents, and caregivers alike will enjoy reading this one.
Recommended for readers 4-8
Based on a real-life story, Inky the Octopus is a rhyming tale about an octopus who escapes his New Zealand aquarium tank and heads out for the open sea. When we first meet Inky, he’s bored, maybe even a little sad, with his fish friend, Blotchy, for company. But he spies an open drain and that’s it: “Out of this tank, I must be free/I must explore the open sea!” Inky gets ready to make his escape, asking Blotchy to come with him – an invitation that his friend politely declines. The next morning, the discovery is made: Inky is gone, free to experience life in the ocean.
The real-life Inky escaped from his National Aquarium of New Zealand tank in 2016, when aquarium keepers came into work and noticed that the octopus wasn’t in his tank. It appears that he slipped through a small opening in his tank, maneuvered across the floor, and slid down a 164-foot-long drainpipe that led out to Hawke’s Bay. There’s even a real-life Blotchy, but he’s another octopus, not a fish. While there are other children’s books about Inky, including 2017’s Inky’s Great Escape by Casey Lyell and Sebastià Serra, Inky the Octopus is officially endorsed by the National Aquarium of New Zealand.
The artwork is adorable and the rhyming text gives a nice cadence to storytelling that allows for dramatic embellishment (at least, when I read it: he’s an octopus, he’s got eight arms, give him some grand gestures!) Inky has big, sweet eyes that will appeal to readers and have them falling in love with the sweet cephalopod, rooting for him to make a run for it. Information about the real-life Inky at the book’s conclusion adds a nice learning opportunity for readers.
Recommended for readers 4-8
A shark’s tale of being kidnapped by aliens! Kind of. A shark speaks directly to the reader in rhyme, confiding in us a true story that happened to him: he was kidnapped by aliens from the sky. Now, remember: when a shark looks up, that’s the sky. We know it as the surface. As the shark notes: “There is something else/and that’s no lie. It stole me from the ocean, and took me to the sky.” The poor shark sees a yummy fish, goes for a snack, and discovers – whoops! – the fish has a hook. And those aliens were terrifying: “In ships they steered? Faces with beards? Heads with two ears? It was all just too weird.” To add insult to injury, no one believes him. What’s a poor shark to do?
I loved everything about this story. The art is just beautiful, from the endpapers that could be a starry night sky or the surface of the water at night; the combination of realistic and almost dreamlike renderings of sea life, from the hazy, colorful jellyfish to the crisp spread of rays making their way through the story, to the black-eyed protagonist whose tale will make you chuckle and yet, feel for his plight (gender pronoun is mine; the character has no determined gender in the story). It’s a look at preservation and oceanography from a different point of view, and makes a realistic-looking shark less threatening, even likable. Kids will appreciate the misunderstood predator; how many times have kids been called out for exaggerating a recollection that is absolutely true from their point of view? Sea Creatures From the Sky provides a good jumping-off point to discuss point-of-view storytelling and what exactly the humans were doing with the shark when they “measured, probed, and spoke in strange code”. This one is a must-add to storytimes and books where sharks and undersea life are popular. Which, really, has to be, like every collection. Kids LOVE sharks.
Ricardo Cortés illustrated one of my baby shower gifts, Go The F**k to Sleep (no, I’ve never read it to the kiddo, but it did comfort me on many a sleepless night), and its child-friendly companion, Seriously, Just Go to Sleep.