Oceanarium

Oceanarium
Teagan White and Loveday Trinick
Big Picture Press

This outsize volume is part of the Welcome to the Museum series that uses the interactive gallery style of a museum, in this instance taking readers to meet the amazing life found in and around the seas. 

As always the presentation is superb: a large clear, well leaded font is used for the text, there are awesome full page illustrations by Teagan White opposite each page of text, and marine biologist Loveday Trinick’s explanations are fascinating, educative, and likely to encourage youngsters to wonder at ocean fauna and flora.

First we are given a general introduction to the historic oceanic divisions and the ocean zones before proceeding to the first gallery wherein the microscopic plankton – both phytoplankton and zooplankton – are to be found.

Gallery 2 exhibits fauna that inhabit coral reefs; there are examples of wandering jellyfish; the Portuguese Man o’War, (a venomous predator) actually a colony comprising four different kinds of polyps that all work together to act as one animal. and examples of some of the 1000 known anemone species. (I never knew before that there was a Venus flytrap anemone). The gallery also includes a full page illustration of a coral reef and some descriptive paragraphs, the last of which states that they ‘may also hold the key for the treatment of infections, heart disease and even cancer.’

Moving on, readers meet next inhabitants of the deep sea – molluscs and echinoderms, the outer shells of some of the bivalves shown may well be familiar to those who wander beaches at low tide.

No matter which of the nine galleries you wander through, the other habitats are: a rock pool, a mangrove forest, a kelp forest,

the Poles, the Galapagos islands you’ll encounter a wealth of stunning images of, and facts about the marvellous life inhabiting the deep. 

The final one draws attention to the human impact upon the ocean as a whole emphasising the vital importance of its contribution to many aspects of our lives, as well as highlighting the adverse impact we humans have already had on this watery world. However, with ever more people becoming aware of this damage, there is still time to make changes to our behaviour that can conserve, protect and restore this essential component of Earth’s ecosystem.

Marine biology isn’t just for specialists; this wonderful book can be enjoyed by anyone from primary school onwards (it might well encourage some observational drawing) and for those who want to learn even more, try the Ocean Conservation Trust and the other organisations listed on the final page.

Towering Tree Puzzle / Lift-the-Flap and Colour:Jungle & Ocean

The Towering Tree Puzzle
illustrated by Teagan White
Chronicle Books
Essentially this is a sturdy box containing 17 large, easily manipulated, double-sided pieces depicting Spring/Summer scenes on one side and Autumn/Winter ones on the reverse. Each piece shows various woodland animals playing and working together; a whole tree community indeed and the puzzle when complete is over 130 centimetres long. Nothing special about that, you might be thinking but, the language potential is enormous, especially as there is no one right way of fitting the pieces together: this open-endedness also means that if more than one child plays with the pieces, there is a co-operative element too.

The artwork is splendid: each detailed piece, a delight.
Every branch of the tree generates a different story, or rather, many possibilities; ditto the completed tree. Some children like to story about the pieces as they put them into place, others prefer to complete the puzzle and then tell one or several stories which may or may not be connected. You could try a completely open-ended ‘take it in turns tell me about’ game with children sitting in a circle for starters, or perhaps choose a focus, say animals, plants or perhaps, events: the possibilities are many.
I’ve used this marvellous resource in several different settings and each time it’s been received with enormous enthusiasm and the users have shown great reluctance to part with it afterwards.

Lift-the-Flap and Colour Jungle
Lift-the-Flap and Colour Ocean

Alice Bowsher
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/ Natural History Museum
In this collaborative publishing enterprise, children can choose from one of two locations to start their colouring in experience. The first is the South American Amazon jungle wherein jaguars hunt, slow sloths dangle, alligators lie in wait for a tasty meal, stick insects and parrots share the lush foliage, and swinging monkeys abound.
In the Ocean they can encounter diving dolphins, and shoals of fish, visit a coral reef with its abundance of sea creatures, notice the seaweed fronds that provide a safe hiding place for fish; and dive right down to the deepest dark depths.
A brief, rhyming text accompanies each adventure gently informing and guiding the young user as s/he explores the location, lifts the flaps and adds colour to the black and white pages – five spreads per book. And the final page of each book has an information paragraph that focuses on the importance of protecting the specific environment.
These will I’m sure be seized on by young enthusiasts, particularly those with an interest in wild life and will one hopes, leave them wanting to discover more about the inhabitants of each location.

If I Were a Whale
Shelley Gill and Erik Brooks
Little Bigfoot
This contemplative, charmer of a board book successfully mixes rhyme and science facts. It imagines the possibilities of being a minke, a beluga playing with icebergs, a pilot whale and then these beauties …

If those don’t suit there’s a tusked narwhal, a blue whale, or a humpback perhaps? There are eleven possibilities in all, each one beautifully illustrated by Erik Brooks who manages to capture the essence of each one in those watery worlds of his.
Yes, it’s a small introduction to a huge topic but this is a pleasure to read aloud, is likely to be demanded over and over, and to inspire tinies to want to know more about these amazing mammals.

I’ve signed the charter