"Big as a bus and smaller than seeds, billions of babies are born in the ocean...." This opening line and later refrain entices readers into a magical, real-life world. Through lyrical, read aloud text and light-hearted and beautiful illustration, Ocean Babies presents the animal babies of the ocean. The giant blue whale contrasts with tiny coral polyps, sea horses pop from their fathers' pouches, and bat rays spread wing fins to fly through the ocean for the first time. Did you know that sea otter pups are helpless at birth and need to learn to
"Big as a bus and smaller than seeds, billions of babies are born in the ocean...." This opening line and later refrain entices readers into a magical, real-life world. Through lyrical, read aloud text and light-hearted and beautiful illustration, Ocean Babies presents the animal babies of the ocean. The giant blue whale contrasts with tiny coral polyps, sea horses pop from their fathers' pouches, and bat rays spread wing fins to fly through the ocean for the first time. Did you know that sea otter pups are helpless at birth and need to learn to swim from their parents? Did you know that orca babies look exactly like their parents, while baby emperor angelfish change colors completely in adulthood? Children see an array of charmingly illustrated ocean babies with their parents and also get a gentle introduction to animal life strategies and patterns, such as migration and predation. Fascinating back matter notes on the art and text add another layer of information to the lilting main text with details on habitat, behavior, and animal strategies and life cycles.
Rose (Into the A, B, Sea) and Nakata (Tell Me My Story, Mama) gracefully blend verit with impressionism as they literally immerse readers in the concept of the ocean as nursery. Rose's text takes on a gentle, rocking tone as she compares and contrasts the many kinds of aquatic offspring. For a series of spreads that uses a sea lion pup, a host of red crabs, dolphins and sea horses as examples, she writes, "One by one, and in huge bunches,/ they wriggle and spurt from their mother's body-/ or their father's!" The lightheartedness and luminescent colors of Nakata's artwork synchronize swimmingly with the mood of the text-whatever she paints seems to dance on the page. Like Rose, Nakata doesn't overly anthropomorphize the babies and their families, but their smiles are readily recognizable (the sockeye salmon's toothy grin is a hoot), and she demonstrates that hanging out with Mom (or Dad, in the case of the sea horse) is a universal joy. Four pages of notes provide a short, informative addendum to the text (the exegesis of the line "Some change homes like you change clothes" discusses hermit crabs and their symbiotic relationship to the anemones that "decorate" their appropriated shells). Those for whom babyhood is not such a distant memory will want to dive in many times. Ages 4-8. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
As deep as the ocean is, this story about the babies within it is ironically shallow. The theme is diversity in the births and lives of ocean babies, but the story itself does not teach much more than the fact that in the ocean there are many species that are very different from each other. Although the art goes along with the text, each page is a missed opportunity to provide specific examples. Throughout the story the author uses the generic words "some" and "others" in regards to species, when those pictured could be identified. Readers will eventually find some depth after the story at the back of the book. There, thumbnail illustrations of ocean animals from the story are accompanied by educational and interesting facts about them. As basic and generic as the story is, this back section seems meant for more advanced readers. And yet it is no great treat to see the art again, for the watercolor illustrations lack dimension and are sadly disappointing, especially since this title was published by the National Geographic Society. 2005, National Geographic Society, Ages 4 to 7.
—Cherie Ilg Haas
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-This gorgeous picture book is perfect for sharing the wonders of marine life with young children. Through simple, poetic text, Rose highlights the variety of creatures found in the sea: "Big as a bus" (a blue whale calve) "and smaller than seeds" (the offspring of a coral reef), "billions of babies are born to the ocean." The narrative goes on to describe, in very basic terms, the various ways in which these animals are born and learn to swim, what they eat, and how they live, all accompanied by Nakata's fluid watercolors. The last four pages offer thumbnails of the earlier illustrations, along with more detailed information about the species portrayed. This book beautifully captures the magic of the ocean world and will work equally well in storytime, in the classroom, or for one-on-one sharing.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Maryland School for the Deaf, Columbia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A beautiful peek at the marine circle of life. Large spare text layered over simply rendered watercolors highlight the diversity of animal life found in the sea. "Big as a bus, and smaller than seeds," the opposites found among ocean animals present themselves: single or multiple births, born live or oviparous, traveling to find food or waiting for food to come along. The use of familiar vocabulary and comparisons brings it all to the level of a young child. The last four pages offer a paragraph of information about each featured animal next to a thumbnail reproduced from the corresponding text. This format will provide adults with the knowledge needed to answer questions about the animals, but is not conducive to reading aloud. Nakata's artwork perfectly fits the text: Soft colors and muted details have the reader seemingly looking through the water at the animals. A touching look at birth and perfect for reminiscing about the births of loved ones. (resource list) (Picture book. 3-7)
DEBORAH LEE ROSE is an internationally published, award-winning author of 14 children's books including All the Seasons of the Year, Someone's Sleepy and The Spelling Bee Before Recess.
As a professional science writer, she helped create and blogs for the free-access, online STEM activity collection Howtosmile.org. She is also Director of Communications for Lindsay Wildlife Museum, the first wildlife rehabilitation hospital established in the United States.