Picture Book Month: The Sea and a Guest Post

Today’s guest post is by Sarah Ducharme of Try Curiosity. She is the librarian at the American International School of Budapest and I enjoy learning from both her blog and her Twitter account. Thank you Sarah for sharing these great sea books for Picture Book Month. I know I’m adding some of these to my to be read list and library shopping lists.

1. The Little Island, by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

This classic Caldecott winner is worth replacing if you have an old copy in your library. The illustrations of my new copy are bright and beautiful!

The Little Island is the main character and we see it as an extension of the sea: we meet its shoreline inhabitants, explore its rocky terrain, and dip into its surrounding waters.

One day, a sailboat with some picnicking children comes to its shore. They bring a little kitten that is doubtful about the island’s proper status. Is it part of this big world or not? As a little conversation develops between the island, the kitten, and a fish, we come to understand that the island is connected to the land underneath the water – a possible “aha!” moment for children.

2. Stella, Star of the Sea, by Marie-Louise Gay

When Stella and her younger brother Sam visit the seashore, he has lots of questions. “What are starfish?” Sam asks. Stella says: They are “shooting stars that fell in love with the sea.” And so it goes as she finds increasingly creative ways to explain the wonders found on the beach. Meanwhile, Sam is having trouble getting into the water. We share in their delight when he finally takes the plunge, and the final watercolor illustration of them floating on their backs with their tummies sticking out is beyond adorable.

3. Flotsam, by David Wiesner

This wordless classic and Caldecott winner gives us a view into the depths of the sea that’s beyond anything we’ve ever imagined. From photographs taken by a camera that’s been drifting with the tides for decades, we see alien-like sea creatures, islands that are actually starfish, mechanical fish, and lounging octopi. The brilliance of the story is the way we gradually understand the meaning behind the photos and the role of the boy who finds them.

Once we realize that he is one of many who have discovered the camera and been lucky enough to see what it witnessed, we know the choice he has to make in order to keep the magic going.

4. Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea, by Steve Jenkins

This nonfiction book is so beautifully constructed and so engaging, I’m counting it as a picture book. With each turn of the page, we descend deeper into the ocean, learning about the creatures that live at each level and feasting our eyes on meticulous paper collages of the various inhabitants. To give us a sense of relative depth, a sidebar shows where we are compared to the absolute bottom. This becomes quite dramatic as we turn to pages that are completely black and feature fish with their own light sources and realize that we’re still less than half-way down the bar! This is the kind of book that gets everyone hooked on the wonder of science.

5. Beach Ball, by Peter Sis

There’s so much to see during a day at beach and this wordless book captures every detail. Sis gives us categories to focus on for each double page spread. We start on an empty beach with Mom and Mary settling in for the day. Mary’s ball blows away, so we follow her in the chase for it. As she runs along the beach, we have lots to observe: alphabet letters cue us to name objects, next we name colors, then count numbers, and we keep engaged all along the beach until, hooray! Mary finds her ball.

6. Amos and Boris, by William Steig

One of my favorite friendship stories takes place almost entirely at sea. Amos the mouse dreams of setting sail and having adventures on the ocean. He works hard to prepare his boat and supplies and one day he’s finally ready. All is just as he has imagined until one night when he rolls off the deck of the boat. After helplessly bobbing around in the water for hours, Boris the whale rescues him and brings him back to shore. They become close friends during the journey and Amos promises to return his kindness one day.

In an ending reminiscent of the fable The Lion and the Mouse, Amos is able to make good on his promise in a most wonderful and tear-jerking way.

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