Just about everyone looking for Gift Books for the Young has probably considered, or even bought, one of the "-0logy" books--Dragonology, Piratology, Monsterology, etc. For the most part, these are fantasy in the guise of non-fiction--the imaginary presented as if it were real.
Oceanology: The True Account of the Voyage of the Nautilus (Candlewick 2009) is slightly different. It is a gorgeous presentation, both in words and in lovely faux 19th-century illustrations, of facts about the ocean, embedded within a fantastical narrative.
The information (touching on such diverse topics as types of coral, the movement of the planet's plates, and the installation of the transatlantic telegraph cable) is presented as sidebars to the journal of a young boy who finds himself voyaging with Captain Nemo (of Twenty thousand Leagues Under the Sea fame). It is a rather gripping story (although I don't think it's quite enough of one to work as a stand-alone). The boy's wonder at all the strange things he sees, and his excitement as the ship explores uncharted realms below the waves, gradually gives way to terror as he realizes that the Captain is insane, and has no plans to return to dry land.
There's a lot here for the reader who has a fondness both for fantasy and science, whether child or adult. Of all the -ology books, this is the one I think has most appeal for the adult reader (and not just the Jules Verne fan). It's a beautiful book, with lots to look at and learn from.
My only caveat is that for younger readers, this might have to be a read-aloud, because it's written in cursive...but, having read it aloud myself, I can promise that it is a rather pleasantly engrossing experience for the adult as well as the child. The narrative tends to get lost in the excitement of flaps to lift and strange sea creatures to read about, but the story can wait till later, when they are old enough to read it for themselves...
And then they will want a copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Oceanology has been nominated for the Cybils in the middle grade science fiction and fantasy category, for which I am a panelist, and my review copy was generously supplied by the publisher.
The Non-fiction Monday Roundup is hosted by In Need of Chocolate today!