Learn basic marine biology and brush up on your counting with Somewhere in the Ocean

Apr 20, 2009
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Teaches about sea life
Reinforces numbers
Teaches new vocabulary
Rhyming pattern
Beautiful colors in pictures

Cons:Our copy is falling apart

The Bottom Line: A great find for young children who like to hunt for numbers and learn about sea animals, with pictures that make great eye candy.

Every four days, my kindergartner comes home from school with a new book from the school library. Last week she brought me Somewhere in the Ocean. Since this was the second time this year that she picked that one out, I think that's a pretty good sign that this book is a hit with the five to six year-old crowd.

What is it that makes this book such a hit? Could it be the brightly colored, full-page pictures of mama or papa sea animals and their babies? Or, the catchy song-like text that accompanies the pictures? Maybe it's the hidden number in each picture? My guess is that it's a combination of all of the above.

Somewhere in the Ocean is a 32 page book, written in collaboration by Jennifer Ward and T.J. Marsh, with gorgeous gouache illustrations (a type of painting) by Kenneth J. Spengler. The basic text of each two-page spread follows a simple rhyming pattern about a mother sea-dweller and her babies:

Somewhere in the ocean in a sea anemone
lived a mother clown fish and her baby fish three
"Nestle!" said the mother. "We nestle!" said the three,
so they nestled safe and snug in their sea anemone.

The accompanying picture uses colors that are bold and bright, of a family of four clown fish peeking out from the strands of a sea anemone. Somewhere in the picture (I won't tell where), there is a number three etched into the scenery.
After getting up to the mother octopus and her little babies ten, there is a five page glossary of 'Fun Facts' about clown fish, kelp, coral reefs, sea horses, and other items mentioned in the text. On the very last page the basic text appears, accompanied by musical notes, so that you can have a melody to sing the book. Personally, I would have appreciated a little note in the front of the book that this music existed, so I could incorporate it into my first reading. Once I put a rhythm in my head one way, it's hard for me to switch gears and change how I read it later.

Final Thoughts
I can't think of any reason not to like this book. The fact that the copy we have of this book from the school library has pages falling out of it shows me that this book has been loved and re-read by many children.

My daughters (ages six and almost three) love the novelty of looking for the numbers and counting how many babies are on each page. The text is short enough and has a good rhythm to hold the attention of my almost three year-old, and my six year-old loves learning the names of the various sea dwellers and their babies. We take turns with the roles of number-finder and counter on each page, which helps to get them equally involved with the reading. The 'Fun Facts' section features a little too much text (a long paragraph for each entry) to hold my little one's attention, so I have only been able to read it with my oldest once.

I like that some of the words the mothers instruct their babies to do are new actions for my kids, such as nestle, nibble, paddle, munch and cruise. These are not necessarily new words for my children, but they are not words that come up often in our conversations, especially not as action words.

Somewhere in the Ocean is a great book for animal lovers aged three to eight. It will not only teach them some basics about marine life, but also reinforce numbers in a catchy rhyme in the process.

School libraries are a valuable and under-funded resource for our children I am greatful that my daughter gets the opportunity to love hers every four days. This is an entry in laurashrti's National Library Week Write Off.

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