Before I go any further, please accept my apologies that you’ll now have ‘Under the sea’ from Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ as an earworm all day ;) Also, my camera had a funny five minutes recently, so some of the photos in this post (and a few of the upcoming posts) are less than perfect. Again, sorry!
This post is, as is hopefully fairly evident from the title’ about books with a watery theme. C and H have two obsessions at the moment (over and above their all-time-most-favouritest-thing-EVER, which is food) – Octonauts and trains. C favours the former and H is more about the latter, though they each happily indulge in both on a daily basis. Therefore, I thought it might be nice to share some of the books we’ve been reading around these topics, so today I’m rounding up our favourite sea books and very soon I’ll be doing the same with our loveliest toot-toot (H’s word for a train) books.
We actually reviewed some of the other Alain Grée books not so long ago, so it won’t come as too much of a shock when I say that we LOVE the retro illustrations. However, this book is also clearly laid out and is something that would have been ideal for us on our recent holiday to France as there are so many labelled pictures and simple facts inside. I’d have loved to have this with us on the beach so that it could be put to use helping the boys identify some of the treasures we discovered.
After our previous post, some people commented that although they loved the illustrations (they are just SO gorgeous) they weren’t so comfortable with the traditional gender roles depicted in the books (which are fairly stereotypical) showing women in caring / home-maker roles and men going out to work, etc. However, this book raises no such issues as far as I can tell, and shows men and women taking on a mixture of tasks throughout the book. A woman is driving a speedboat, a man is shown caring for sea creatures and a male (or perhaps even gender neutral) character is shown wearing a sarong and a headband of flowers while paddling a raft :) Boys and girls are both taking an equal part in all the fun sea-based activities, including using a submersible to explore the ocean – cue SERIOUS Gup envy from C. A beautiful looking and user-friendly book about the seaside? It’s a ‘YES’ from us.
We all have a soft spot for Dougal and his frustration with his humdrum commuter/office job/lonely lifestyle. We cheer as he breaks free of the rat race and goes off on the diving holiday of his dreams. We ooh and ahh at the adventures he has under the sea and we hold our breath in nervous anticipation about whether he’ll take the final gamble and abandon his life back home to live forever in the underwater kingdom of Atlantis that he happens upon during his explorations.
This book is one of the only books we’ve read to the boys that is in diary format, with multiple timed entries for each day. I was initially unsure about how this would flow when reading it out loud and wondered whether it might be better left for when the boys can read it to themselves. I’m so glad that I ignored that feeling and tiptoed into sharing a new genre of writing style with them, as they ‘got it’ straight away and this book has been popular ever since.
This is a short and simple book, but with some of the cleverest use of paper technology we’ve come across in a while. Each pop-up fish gets gobbled up by a larger pop-up fish (despite warnings from watchful friends) until the jaw-dropping (badum-tish) climax when a shark appears to see off all the smaller sea creatures. This book has actually sparked some really interesting discussions about food chains with C and it provides a great visual aid for this purpose ;) We’ve had lots of fun with this (and it’s a bonus that the pop-up features seem incredibly robust).
I will always hold a very special place in my heart for this book, as it’s one of the stories I used to read to C and H while I was pregnant with them. It scans beautifully and the rhyming is more satisfying to me than pretty much any other book I can recall. Obviously the rhyming structure in itself doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good story, but luckily Tiddler is a terrific twist on the classic theme of not crying “Wolf”, following a plucky little fish and his adventures on the way to school each day. It’s a great action story and the boys like listening to it while shaking the underwater-scenes-in-a-bottle that we made recently. I had to include the page below as it features seahorses, which are my second favourite creatures after owls (and yes, I realise how child-like that makes me sound. I am still *totally* like Clara Vulliamy’s delightful creation, Martha, with my Special Collections, and proud to be so ;) ). However, if I could have squashed in another page, I’d have chosen the one with a Gruffalo fish on it… Keep your eyes peeled when you read the book yourself.
This book is simply stunning. It’s a great way to introduce the comic book style to younger children and the text still flows logically enough (which for me can be tricky when attempting to read out some of the more detailed comics) so readers and non-readers alike can follow the story without too much need for finger pointing or explanations.
The book opens with Mouse uttering the all-too-familiar travelling refrain of, “Are we there yet?” This drew C and H in straight away – here was a character who Felt Their Pain when it came to long journeys. Despite seeing awe-inspiring sights and being part of a fantastic adventure (C was very pleased to be able to name a lot of the sea creatures they encounter), Mouse is still keen to get home and keeps repeating the question over and over. The endpapers are cleverly woven into the story in this book, so it’s not until the inside back cover that we learn that, just maybe, Mouse had enjoyed the trip more than we might have thought…
Having previously written about TV tie-in books here and here, I was over the moon to find that the Octonauts series had been based on some pretty fantabulous books. While there are now many more books that have appeared as spin-offs from the TV show, the original stories by Meomi are totally awesome and worth getting hold of even if you’re not ‘into’ the Octonauts show. I do enjoy the TV programme as it happens – it’s actually quite informative and encourages concern for the environment and care for other creatures without being in any way preachy.
In the books (and thus the TV programme), it’s so encouraging to see that Tweak the engineer is female and that Captain Barnacles (the leader of their daring missions) is comfortable wearing pink sweatbands. Kwazii the pirate kitten dresses up like a princess in one book and Peso the penguin, who is male, is a sensitive, gentle character. All the Octonauts have their own distinct personalities and have a diverse range of interests and skills. The quirky illustrations are just super and often require you physically change the page orientation in order to give the effect that a journey is taking place or a new habitat is being discovered. As you can tell, I’m a fan of the Octonauts, though my admiration is nothing compared with that of my children – the fact that it inspired us to seek out a stack of other sea-ish books is testament to that!
Disclaimer: I received my copies of this ‘Seaside’ and ‘Fish Food’ from the publishers. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the reviews represent my own honest opinion.