Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

Overview

Sylvia Earle first lost her heart to the ocean as a young girl when she discovered the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico in her backyard. As an adult, she dives even deeper. Whether she’s designing submersibles, swimming with the whales, or taking deep-water walks, Sylvia Earle has dedicated her life to learning more about what she calls “the blue heart of the planet.” With stunningly detailed pictures of the wonders of the sea, Life in the Ocean tells the story of Sylvia’s growing passion and how her ocean ...

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Overview

Sylvia Earle first lost her heart to the ocean as a young girl when she discovered the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico in her backyard. As an adult, she dives even deeper. Whether she’s designing submersibles, swimming with the whales, or taking deep-water walks, Sylvia Earle has dedicated her life to learning more about what she calls “the blue heart of the planet.” With stunningly detailed pictures of the wonders of the sea, Life in the Ocean tells the story of Sylvia’s growing passion and how her ocean exploration and advocacy have made her known around the world. This picture book biography also includes an informative author’s note that will motivate young environmentalists.

Life in the Ocean is one of The Washington Post's Best Kids Books of 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nivola’s (Orani: My Father’s Village) folk-styled paintings immediately pull readers into this short biography of oceanographer Sylvia Earle, a pioneer and entrepreneur in her field who also set an example for women of the mid–20th century. The initial spread of Earle’s childhood farm is a Grandma Moses–like collection of pale greens, earth tones, and diminutive motifs that invites closer inspection to find other details: a pair of mallards in a dusky pond, a red cardinal atop a willow. The panoramic illustrations soon move underwater, as Earle’s family relocates to the Gulf Coast, and her interests lead her deeper into ocean exploration. Especially stunning is a bright watercolor of Earle scuba diving amid a tropical reef, the coral and sea life forming a colorful border as she swims between the pages. The straightforward narrative highlights Earle’s career and also provides a few intimate closeups from specific dives (“Moments before the collision, the whale swerved gracefully, tilting her great head to look into Sylvia’s eyes”). Earle’s zeal for ocean exploration and preservation is evident in this visually striking introduction to a remarkable scientist. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

"...the varied images, atypical seascapes, and account of how one individual was able to realize her goal to see these wonders should spark the imaginations of countless budding scientists."--Science

“Nivola’s mixed-media paintings are undeniably lovely, with myriad shades of blue bathing familiar and mysterious forms of sea life at different ocean depths…”--BCCB

"...exquisitely detailed..."--Horn Book

“…sure to inspire the next generation…”--Booklist, starred

 

"Readers lucky enough to dive into the unknown world of the renowned oceanographer will discover how a child’s curiosity grew into a passion to explore and protect ‘the blue heart of the planet.’”--School Library Journal, starred
 
“Young explorers will be happy to dive into this captivatingly illustrated biography of the renowned oceanographer.”--Kirkus, starred

 

“…the sea takes center stage, inviting readers to swim along with Earle herself.”--New York Times

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
How important are the oceans of our planet to sustaining life? According to the introduction "Living organisms in the sea release the oxygen we breathe in, and take up the carbon dioxide we breathe out." Plants do the same work as the ocean. Sylvia Earle is an expert who has spent thousands of hours under water and many thousand more above to understand the oceans and the creatures that live in it. She was always interested in nature, but it was not until she moved to Florida and lived near the Gulf of Mexico that she became enamored with the oceans. With her swim goggles she could study the vast array of animals and plants in the nearby waters. As she grew up she learned to scuba dive, joined expeditions, lived in a deep-sea laboratory, walked on the ocean bed in an aqua suit and descended even further in a variety of submersibles. Sylvia shared her discoveries and adventures and introduced people to the beauty of whales—both their elegant swimming and their intriguing songs. Some of the fish she studied exhibited human characteristics such as returning to the same bed to rest at night. Her ventures into the deepest oceans revealed that even at 1,600 feet down there was still light and amazing bioluminescent creatures. The illustrations of these creatures and another of the vast blue water with specs of light make one think of the night sky. It is ironic that we know more about the planets than we do about our own oceans which are so vital to our survival. The message comes through in a closing note from the author and if you read it carefully you will know that it is a call to action on the part of people to stop polluting our oceans. This picture book would work well in ESOL programs or for students who are not reading on grade level. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
School Library Journal
Gr 1–5—Readers lucky enough to dive into the unknown world of the renowned oceanographer will discover how a child's curiosity grew into a passion to explore and protect "the blue heart of the planet." Born in 1935, Earle grew up in rural New Jersey, where the woods, ponds, and wildlife captured her interest and imagination; she "was a biologist and a botanist long before she even knew what those words meant." When the family moved to Florida in 1947, with the Gulf of Mexico practically in her backyard, she "lost her heart to the water." Roaming the ocean floor in an aqua suit, codesigning a one-person spherical bubble, and plunging 13,000 feet in a Japanese submersible did not satisfy Earle's oceanic wanderlust. In 1970 she realized her dream to "live" underwater; she spent two weeks 50 feet below the surface, observing the daily habits of sea creatures day and night. Detailed watercolor illustrations offer readers a unique perspective of the sea and its inhabitants. A striking spread depicts a 40-foot-long gray humpback whale in deep blue water eyeing a minuscule Earle. Quotes from her journal explain that these huge creatures are surprisingly "…sleek and elegant and gorgeous… they move like ballerinas…dancing in the sea." An author's note details the subject's accomplishments from marine biologist to entrepreneur to environmentalist. Use this engaging read-aloud to introduce students to an inspiring life during women's history month or pair it with Jennifer Berne's Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (Chronicle, 2008) for an ocean or Earth Day unit.—Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Young explorers will be happy to dive into this captivatingly illustrated biography of the renowned oceanographer. Blue is everywhere, as is the marvelous diversity of undersea life, as Nivola recounts Earle's passion for the oceans. From early childhood, she cultivated her love of nature; her family's move to Florida, close to the Gulf of Mexico's enthralling depths, clinched things. From then on, Earle's explorations took her further and deeper. She helped design devices that allowed dives to profound underwater depths and witnessed the extraordinary phenomenon of bioluminescence. She lived for two weeks beneath the waves in a deep-sea station. Studies of whales yielded nearly magical observations. The detailed, richly colored, jewel-like illustrations capture the majesty of the undersea world and its astonishingly beautiful inhabitants. Nivola is careful to show Earle in perspective, so readers can fully comprehend the ocean's vastness and understand that humans are merely a part of the amazing richness of life on Earth and under its waters. A delicious invitation to swim with the fishes. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)
Abby McGanney Nolan
With wonderful details and color, the book follows [Earle's] quest, starting with just a pair of goggles, to explore more and more of the sea.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374380687
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/13/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 244,939
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: NC1170L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Claire A. Nivola has written and illustrated many books for children, including most recently Orani. She is also the author of Planting the Trees of Kenya, a picture book about Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai. She lives with her husband in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts.

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