Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book #194: In the Sea by David Elliott, Illustrated by Holly Meade

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This vibrantly illustrated collection of nearly 20 poems explores and celebrates marine life from the tiniest sardine and briny shrimp to the impressively massive whale and giant squid. Sea creatures fill every inch of the pages and the poems are scattered about to be discovered like sand dollars on the beach.

Poems vary in length from one word to a few sentences. Some poems stand well on their own, while others are more meaningful when read/recited in a cluster. The poems are great for expanding vocabulary, with wonderful words like, “carapace,” “torpedo,” and “apparition.” The illustrations are a combination of woodblock prints and watercolors. The prints provide detailed and substantial elements, while the watercolors create a mesmerizing waterscape. The subject of the poem is always prominently featured and the poems are printed in bold black ink making them easy to read.

Use this nonfiction title to introduce a unit or storytime on marine life. You can read just a few poems or read cover to cover. Younger children will enjoy poems about familiar creatures, such as “The Starfish,” while older kids will benefit from learning new words and animals as in the poem, “The Chambered Nautilus.”

Encourage kids to write their own poem about their favorite sea creature. Provide other nonfiction books on ocean creatures, especially books with great color photographs, to inspire ideas.

Pick one animal from the book and use that poem as a jumping off point to explore a new animal a day. For instance, if you picked the sea turtle on the cover, talk about its anatomy, habits, and environment. Check out this fact sheet for kids written by the NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources. Make paper bowl turtles and label the carapace and plastron.

Meade’s use of woodblock prints and watercolors lend a distinctive style to the illustrations, so have kids create their own illustrations with similar techniques. Try this printing craft that uses old Styrofoam trays and ink. When the ink dries you can use watercolors or other paints to add color. Alternatively, you can paint the paper first and then place your ink print on top of that.


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