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.)

Pearl (Molly Idle)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pearl by Molly Idle, a fable of mermaids and the importance of little things.

Beneath the ocean’s gentle waves, mermaids – the guardians of the deep – work to protect the sea’s most precious things. Some tend the forests of kelp, some keep their eye on the colorful coral reefs, and some protect the giant, majestic creatures. One little mermaid, Pearl, longs to do her part. She informs her mother that she is ready, and after a moment’s consideration, her mother agrees. Taking Pearl up to a sparkling shoreline, she assigns the young mermaid her task: protecting a single grain of sand. Pearl is heartbroken, seeing her mother’s instruction as a cruel joke, and sinks down to the bottom of the ocean in despair. Squeezing the grain of sand in anger, she is surprised to see it begin to glow. Gently holding it once more, she begins to see the little grain become larger, smoother, and luminescent. Pearl commits herself to her task, and with a bit of patience and dedication, she will find that even the smallest grain of sand has the potential for greatness.

Fabulous. This is the rare children’s story that is simple enough to be enjoyed by a reader of any age, yet so layered and complex that multiple lessons and meanings can be taken from it. A reflection on the environment, or how no effort is too small, or how every great thing began as something little, or the gift of nurturing care – this lovely little fable is all of the above and more. Idle’s muted oceanic color palette is as soothing as it is gorgeous, and her incredible animation-style art is a thing of beauty. The length is fine for all ages, and JJ was memorized by Pearl’s undersea adventure. A treasure, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Deep Underwater (Irene Luxbacher)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Deep Underwater by Irene Luxbacher, a dreamy and surreal adventure to the ocean floor.

A young girl named Sophia invites the reader along as she dives down deep into the sea. She knows all the ocean’s secrets, and she’s glad to share them. Down into the dark, where bubbles swirl and creatures swim and sunken ships hide their treasure. There’s all that and more: mysterious shapes and colors, beings and possibilities. It seems almost to be the stuff of dreams, and perhaps it is…

Unique and lovely. The first thing that strikes me is the unusual color scheme – while many undersea books opt for bright blues and whitish sand, this one paints its setting in the deep blue-greens and shadows of the actual ocean, a far more natural and realistic choice. This works perfectly for the elements of fantasy to come, providing a more familiar background to te mixed-media imaginings of first real marine life, then more odd and otherworldly lifeforms and scenes as the story progresses. The final page gives a lovely bit of context for the preceding adventures in a heartwarming illustration. The length is great, and JJ loved it. A weird and beautiful adventure that celebrates curiousity, courage, and imagination. Baby Bookworm approved!