Ocean Hide and Seek for Nonfiction Monday

Ocean Hide and Seek, by Jennifer Evans Kramer, illustrated by Gary R. Phillips (Sylvan Dell, 2009).

Imagine a book about sea creatures that, on the one hand, is a soothing sea creature book to read at bedtime, and which, on the other hand, serves as a springboard to discussions not just of the creatures but of the poetic subtleties of language. Such a book is this one.

With each beautifully illustrated pair of pages featuring a rhyming, repetitive verse about a single sea creature, this book appears at first a peaceful introduction to the ways in which ocean animals hide themselves:

"Clownfish colors, orange and white-
orange and white, orange and white.
Seeking shelter, taking flight,
clownfish hiding in plain sight."

This is the good-for-bed-time-reading side of this book.

But other verses are more challenging. Here's the octopus:

"Clever arms that dip and sway-
dip and sway, dip and sway.
Like deadly sea snakes seeking prey,
predators soon swim away."

Not so bed-timish, but a good springboard for discussion about what a predator is (although kids today seem to know this by the time they're three), and also about similes--which the grown-up might need to explain.

The grown-up planning to read this book aloud would be advised to read the pages at the end first. Here, in very straightforward prose, the ways in which the various creatures hide in the sea are explained. Even for an educated adult, this book has challenging bits on first read--it helps, for instance, to know in advance from reading the back that some parrotfish "make a clear, mucus "sleeping bag" cocoon at night." Otherwise, when the fish is described as "a queen in her cocoon," everyone is at sea (pun intended)

Speaking from experience with the various children I've tried this book on (four of them), older kids might not care for the repetitive poetry, and younger kids might be baffled by the poetic descriptions. There's not much one can do about the former, but I think that if the adult reader and the child have the patience to talk about the book in depth (this pun just happened) as they read it the first time through, they will learn a lot, and the book might well become a welcomed bed-time story on subsequent reads.

The Non-fiction Monday Roundup is at Lori Calabrese Writes!

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