The Secret of the Magic Pearl (Elisa Sabatinelli)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Secret of the Magic Pearl, written by Elisa Sabatinelli and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, a stunning chapter book about courage, family, and the sea.

Young Hector lives in a small seaside town in Italy, one that is not particularly noteworthy to the outside world, but to Hector, is the most beautiful in the world. His dream is to become a deep sea diver like his father and grandfather before him, but his dream is interrupted by Amedeo Limonta (“the bad guy in this story”) building the tourist destination Rivadoro nearby and putting the marina where his family operate their tours out of business. Hector knows Limonta seeks a fabled pearl – the purest in the world – and he plans to find the pearl first and discover its secrets. Along the way, he and the other characters will discover more secrets as well: of family, of community, and of the living sea.

Spellbinding. Sabatinelli creates an energetic and guileless voice in Hector, as he describes the settings and unique characters surrounding him with beautiful, evocative language; readers are transported to windswept coastal Italy, witness to small town shenanigans and stormy sea journeys with the turn of each page. Bruno’s illustrations are equally immersive, seamlessly weaving through the chapters with spreads and margin artwork that is sometimes educational, sometimes comical, and always captivating. This chapter book is best for elementary-age and older bookworms, but can easily be read aloud in sections; JJ adored the story, even if it took us a few days to cover it entirely. Overall, this is a longer read that it utterly worth it, and we definitely recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Deep In The Sea (Susan B. Katz)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Deep In The Sea, written by Susan B. Katz and illustrated/pop-ups by David A. Carter, a charming undersea pop-up adventure that compares ocean creatures to their land-based “counterparts”.

This sturdy pop-up title welcomes readers by explaining that when it comes to aquatic vs. land animals, “sometimes a name is almost the same”. For instance, while cats purr, catfish stir. And while cows graze, sea cows laze. These simple, bite-sized rhymes are laid out across flaps that open to reveal pop-up scenes of underwater creatures like starfish, sea lions, and leopard sharks.

A fun read. The concept is clever, and while some of the rhymes feel like a bit of a stretch, either in assonance or plausibility (do leopards really “tower”?), most are enjoyable and easy enough for beginning readers to grasp. The best part is the art, in particular the pop-up scenes, which do a wonderful job of illustrating the sea creatures while also mimicking their natural underwater movements, making them seem to “swim” across the page whenever a flap is opened. This is definitely a book for beginners, and while there is a nice mix of familiar and lesser-known sea critters, there is no more info given about them than what their rhyme imparts. It’s a quick read, and JJ absolutely loved it. A lovely oceanic primer for the littlest bookworms, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Ocean!: Waves For All (Stacy McAnulty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ocean!: Waves For All, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by David Litchfield, fourth in the author’s series of nature-based storybooks.

Personified by a set of eyes, nose, and mouth, the open ocean cheerfully greets readers before guiding them through a casual and congenial crash course in the wonders of the sea. Speaking in adorable surfer vernacular (“Dude”, “stoked”, and “righteous” make appearances, among others), the ocean takes its audience on a journey from the formation of the seas, the different zones and sea life within it, and even some of the modern dangers it faces, like trash islands and global warming. However, we can find that “sweet balance,” the ocean assures us; ocean and man? We’re all in this together.

Lovely. McAnulty’s series of humanized celestial bodies (Sun! And Moon!, both illustrated by Stevie Lewis and Earth!, also illustrated by Litchfield) has a wonderful way of connecting young readers to scientific concepts that may seem to too massive otherwise. The Ocean, with it’s Dudeist vocabulary and serene vibe, is especially charming, made all the more engaging by Litchfield’s incredibly complex and intricate art. Backmatter gives further information, suggestions, and resources on being a friend to the ocean. The length is perfect, and JJ and I really enjoyed this one; it’s got a strong environmental message while also capturing the spellbinding majesty of the sea and the life within it. In other words: totally tubular. Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Jules Vs. The Ocean (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jules Vs. The Ocean by Jessie Sima, a sweet and funny story of a summer’s day.

When Jules hits the beach, she has a clear mission: she wants to build the biggest, most awesome sand castle ever to impress her big sister. She sets to work right away, but as soon as she’s making progress – SPLASH! A wave rolls in to wash her castle away. Her sister promises that this happens to everyone, and encourages her to keep trying. Jules begins again, and again, yet each time the ocean sends a massive wave targeting her efforts. On her third try, it even snatches away her bucket, and she cries out in frustration. Her sister arrives once more to console her, and together they begin work on a masterpiece: the biggest, most fancy, most wonderful castle ever created! And no sooner are they done then – CRASH – the sea destroys their work once more. Yet this time the girls laugh and find joy in the shared experience, running off to tell their mother of their epic battle against the ocean waves.

Delightful. This adorable day-in-the-life tale uses a simple story with a distinctively childlike voice to explore a classic rite of passage and a loving relationship between sisters. The gentle humor – including a hilariously offbeat ending – gives the narrative a light and sunny feeling, perfect for a summer storytime. Sima’s art is colorful, fun, even edging on epic at times, enchanting to the “girl vs. nature” theme. The length is great, and JJ loved it. This is a fun read with a little humor, a little adventure, and a good deal of heart. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm in exchange for an honest review.)

Notch, The Rescued Dolphin (Martina Wing)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Notch, The Rescued Dolphin, written by Martina Wing and illustrated by Jackie Mask, a story inspired by the viral video of Notch’s rescue.

Off the coast of the big island of Hawaii, Notch – a Bottlenose dolphin named for a distinctive scar on his back – swims happily with his pod. Notch is a daredevil, spending his days catching fish and showing off with his best friend Honi. One day, while Notch is chasing a fish for supper, he becomes caught on a fishing hook and helplessly tangled in the attached line. Unable to fully open his mouth or properly use his left flipper, he is terrified. Despite the best efforts of his family and friends, Notch remains trapped in the line, and begins to panic. Yet, with the advice of some notable and rare sea creatures of the Kona Coast, Notch will find that his salvation may lie in the hands of the very creatures who caused his problems: humans.

Based on a video of Notch’s rescue, taken by the author during a SCUBA Manta Ray encounter, this imagining of Notch’s life and what led him to approach human divers for assistance is equally heartwarming and informative. Readers are introduced to notable, real-life creatures that call the Hawaiian Pacific their home, such as a friendly tiger shark named Laverne and a ray named Big Bertha; photographs and short bios of the animals in the backmatter give a unique sense of realism to the fictional story. The narrative is filled with a calm sense of wonder and respectful admiration of the ocean and its ecosystem, and explores themes of conservation. These elements are furthered by the gorgeously detailed and realistic artwork, which deftly manages to convey emotion and scale. However, the text can often be repetitive and slow, making for a lengthy read that younger bookworms may not appreciate; though JJ adored the illustrations, she was getting fairly tired of the story about halfway though. Lastly, a pronunciation guide for the beautiful Hawaiian names and phrases would have been a welcome addition for haole readers such as myself. But otherwise, this fascinating tale is worth a read, and Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)