The gorgeous illustrations in this book deserve top billing. Polymer clay in vibrant colors was sculpted, sliced, pressed, and plied by the artist, then photographed to create the two-dimensional relief art of marine life. Each folio reveals a different species of swimmer, ten in all, against sea-inspired polymer backdrops that include swirls of aqua waves, orange and purple coral gnarls, and ribbons of sea grass in stunning chartreuse. Quite satisfactorily, the artist explains her process at the back of the book and gives parents and teachers tips on helping children create with polymer clay. Only after perusal of the art has been satisfied (and I would wager child or adult will study it many times) will one settle down to enjoy reading the book. Set to the rhythm and tune of "Over in the Meadow," the text opens with mother octopus and her baby one, mother parrotfish and her parrotfish two, and so on, until the tenth species and her ten babies are introduced in counting book fashion. Although Berkes explains in separate text at the back of the book that dolphins really only produce one (sometimes two) offspring at a time, it is, therefore, puzzling that she introduces mother and six baby dolphins at point six in the counting rhyme. But there are enough bonuses in this book to overlook that flaw. The back of the book also provides music and lyrics, facts about coral life and reef animals, and finger play suggestions for teachers and parents. 2004, Dawn Publications, Ages 3 to 8.
Eye-popping artwork is the star of the show in Berkes's lively, oceanic counting book, based on the classic children's song Over in the Meadow. In Berkes's version, creatures from the coral reef replace terrestrial fauna. She introduces a different animal in each full-bleed spread, but instead of bluebirds and muskrats, she highlights octopuses, pufferfish, and seahorses. Canyon uses polymer clay to create arresting visuals. In one spread, a sea anemone, its hot pink base crowned with rosy-tipped, lime-green tendrils, bursts from the page while mother clownfish darts after a trio of young ones. Their textured scales and vivid patterns stand out against a swirling blue background of coiled clay and small, bubble-like spheres. Young children will enjoy counting the offspring. Backmatter includes music and lyrics, further information about each animal, and an artists' note explaining how the illustrations were created. (Picture book. 4-8)