"I am the Atlantic Ocean," announces the watery narrator of this artistically intriguing but sometimes confusing book. The first-person narrative enumerates facts ("The sun/ so many millions of miles away/ heats my water,/ which turns into clouds and storms") and an afterword ("Some Things About Me") registers a plea for the care of the oceans. The Atlantic's voice is child-centered ("I stretch from the icy poles/ North and South/ I rub shoulders with North America/ and bump into Africa"), and Karas populates the gouache, acrylic and pencil illustrations with wistful, cartoon-like children. However, both art and text often require some sophistication and prior knowledge for understanding. For example, young readers may not have the historical dexterity to comprehend why a 19th-century schooner appears next to a modern ship or why the accompanying text declares, "First I was discovered/ (even though I was here first)/ and then conquered." Skewed perspectives and textured layers of color keep the paintings varied and interesting, but the abstract viewpoint and relative size of objects seem unnecessarily puzzling. The author ameliorates the recitation of facts with the occasional interjection of folksy humor ("That salty smell is me too") but the levity creates an inconsistent tone overall. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In simple, brief, poetic language the ocean speaks to us. It describes its scope, the way the waters move, "heavy, raging, lying still." The role of the sun and the moon are touched; the fish and fishermen noted. An inspiration of artists and poets, the Atlantic reminds us¾"Don't forget I am here." Karas fills the large double-spreads with deceptively simple scenes that add considerably to the mood of the spare text, using textured mixed media with child-like abandon to evoke appropriate emotions. People are included to show relationships, like a man with a flashlight walking on a nighttime beach as "my tides go in and out." A youngster is encased in a seashell to show the mystical power of the ocean. Some factual information is added at the end, along with a plea for respect for the danger now threatening the seas. 2002, G.P. Putnam's Sons,
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
K-Gr 2-In this large, square volume, Karas's crafty combination of wit and naivete offers viewers intriguing and amusing marine perspectives. "I am the Atlantic Ocean I begin where the land runs out at the end of yards and streets and hills." The poetic tribute begins just over the hill in a childlike drawing of a youngster riding a bicycle past crudely sketched houses. The simple celebration of sandy beach and salty smell quickly moves far out to sea. "I rub shoulders with North America and bump into Africa I slosh around South America and crash into Europe." There's an occasional comma, but never a period in the meandering reflection. Many beguiling touches emerge in the broad paintings with Karas's characteristic flat figures of people and animals. Faint lines of latitude and longitude or the face of a compass appear in the water, and the shadow of a plane mingles "with skates and whales and fish that fly." An intriguing set of curved arrows encloses snips of scenes on white pages, suggesting the water's circuitous travel from continent to continent. Where "Artists paint pictures of me with cerulean, cobalt and ultramarine," bands of these shades carry phrases quoting well-known poets. In the end, the book is also a lesson about preserving the ocean waters, strongly stated in brief concluding notes. The oblique, poetic references will be best understood by those readers with a bit of background in geography and science.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Descriptions of the water and overviews of natural processes combine to make this a unique presentation of the story of the Atlantic Ocean. Readers learn that the Atlantic is not only the mist, salty smell, and sound of the waves, but also the icebergs up north, and the sand that the water constantly wears away and carries somewhere else. Stretching from pole to pole and washing four continents, the Atlantic has been "crossed and probed, charted, studied, dirtied." It's also been fished, painted, and written of by poets. Throughout the free-verse text, the author introduces the vocabulary of the ocean-ebb and flood, bay, inlet, continent, charted, oyster beds, longlines, while he skims over various natural processes, such as the ebb and flood of the tides, erosion, and the water cycle. Sparse punctuation sometimes makes the text difficult to follow, but Karas's (7 x 9 = Trouble, p. 341, etc.) word choices more than make up for this flaw-the "rattle and clatter" of the pebbles in the waves, "heaving, raging," and "slosh" of the water. Gouache, acrylic, and colored-pencil drawings full of oceany blues and greens complement the text and illustrate the concepts presented. Karas ends with a fact page, "Some Things About Me," which details the age, size, currents, and growth of the Atlantic. With its broad presentation, this would make an excellent beginning to an elementary-school unit on oceans. A lovely departure for the artist whose work usually makes readers laugh out loud. (Picture book. 4-8)