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A World Above The Sea

Continuing my summary of books by authors I met at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffehouse’s recent Mother Daughter Book Party, I’d like to tell you about an intriguing, engaging sci-fi trilogy by San Fernando Valley author Jenn Reese.

AboveWorldjacket-198x300A year ago Reese’s middle grade novel, Above World ($16.99, also available in paperback, Candlewick, ages 10 and up), was released and next month you can pick up the second in the trilogy called Mirage.

If the cover alone doesn’t pull you into Above World, the plucky main character Aluna certainly will. Aluna is a girl who lives underwater in a colony of mermaids.  Mermaids? I was hooked already. All around, in what had been a safe, thriving environment, her fellow citizens’ breathing shells are beginning to fail and Aluna, is determined to discover why. So, despite many obstacles that make this an action-packed adventure tale as well as a sci-fi story, Aluna is going to find a way to save her people. Her best friend, Hoku, a boy one year her junior and a “techie” will join Aluna on her quest Above World, or the land above the sea. The pairing of female and male protagonists make this an ideal read for both girls and boys.

What’s fascinating about this novel’s premise is that the Kampii (Mer people) were all once humans now living in the ocean because the population Above World was getting too high. Reese has cleverly imagined a water world that seems to make sense. Plus the book is filled with so many other types of interesting people, animals and fish such as the Shark people whose habitat is lower depths than Fish. Reese described them as “less cultured,” so they have more adaptations and are a danger to the Kampii. Because I attended the special bookstore event, I was thrilled to learn a little bit about what new characters will be introduced in Book 3, hint: think Greek mythological creature. I am confident readers will agree that here is so much to like and enjoy about Above World that thankfully the story does not end with Book 1!

-Ronna Mandel

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Life in The Ocean

A New York Times best-selling author and a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator take you down deep for a look at life below the waves. Reviewed today by Karen Estrada.

In the Sea ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 3-5), David Elliot’s companion volume to his books On the Farm and In the Wild, is a stunning and educational glimpse into the creatures of the ocean deep. Holly Meade’s magnificent woodcut illustrations are reflective of the ever undulating world beneath the sea’s surface; the often bold, sometimes fierce, images of sea life juxtaposed against the soft shades of their ocean habitat reminded me of days I spent scuba diving off the coast of Thailand where the vibrant colors of sea life stand out against a muted palette of blue-green hues. Meade’s illustrations are nothing short of art—images I would happily purchase and frame to hang in my child’s room.

If only for the illustrations, this book is worth purchasing, but let’s not discount the enlightening poetry of David Elliot who offers descriptions of both familiar sea creatures, such as the Shark, and those less likely to appear in a children’s book, like the Mackerel or Chambered Nautilus. Using a variety of poetic styles imposed over Meade’s captivating illustrations, Elliot gives children a keen insight into the characteristics, lives, and habits of twenty creatures of the sea. The vocabulary Elliot employs in his poetry often surpasses that of a young child, using words like “apparition” and “belligerent,” which deepens the educational opportunities this book has to offer. I had no idea what a turtle’s “carapace” was until I looked it up; even I learned something from reading this remarkable book. David Elliot’s poetry and Holly Meade’s illustrations in In the Sea pair together swimmingly to depict the often enigmatic nature of sea life in a book that I will return to again and again.

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Fun Exploring Under & On the Sea

Today’s selection of ‘sea and do’ books is reviewed by Debbie Glade.

t6415_main_1Your daughter will have oodles of fun reading, learning and doing with Oodles of Ocean Fun from American Girl. This spiral bound book is chock full of unique activities, all with an ocean theme of course. Inside you’ll find pages to unfold, rip out and tear apart. There are posters, puzzles, cards, crafts, stickers, pages to color and facts to read. It’s always exciting for a child to get a busy book like this one. There’s enough stuff in here to keep her entertained for hours, making this is a great book for a car or plane trip or even just a rainy day.

The Oceanology Handbook: A Course for Underwater Explorers by Professor Pierre Aronnax, is one of those lovely, high quality exploration books we’ve come to know and love from Candlewick Press. The book has an old world look with ivory pages, 0763648744medhistorical-looking illustrations, some script writing and a neat scroll design running down one side of each page. It is divided into three sections: Exploring the Oceans: with 12 chapters on the history of the ocean and its vessels; Understanding the Oceans: with 7 chapters on the science of the constantly changing physical nature of the ocean, and Life in the Oceans: with 13 chapters on all the creatures who live under the sea. Readers learn about how the sea is navigated, sunken treasures, currents, tides, the ocean floor, marine plants and animals, the work of Charles Darwin and so much more. In the back of the book is a 4-panel foldout of gorgeous ocean stickers, a beautiful ending to a beautiful book. This one is a definite keeper!

debbieglade1Debbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for She blogs daily at

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World Without Fish is NAPPA Gold Winner!

photo_39029342The results are in and it’s no surprise that World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky has won a Gold Medal from NAPPA. For ordering info and more winners, visit the NAPPA website.

World Without Fish

By Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by Frank Stockton; Workman Publishing, 2011; $16.95;

photo_39029322This book has been called the Silent Spring for a new generation, and that’s not an exaggeration. Unlike most ecological books for young readers, it’s neither preachy nor condescending, but uses straightforward, powerful writing to pull the reader into caring about the perilous state of our oceans and sea life. The nontraditional format, including sections in graphic-novel form, keeps this fact-filled book lively. And Kurlansky brings you right into the worlds he’s writing about, whether under-sea with the fish or above with the fisherman.

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Cousteau and His Calypso


Meet 2nd grade guest reviewer, Naomi. She’s 7 years-old, hails from Southern California and loves to swim (in pools and the ocean). Her favorite animal is the Seahorse! Today Naomi has reviewed The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino who is both author and illustrator.

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino is a wonderful book overflowing with terrific colorful pictures. It was about the ocean, the fish, and world-famous Jacques Cousteau, who loved the sea. Jacques Cousteau was born in France and was a sickly boy. Doctors told him he needed to swim if he wanted to get healthy and so he began to love the water. When he was a young man a friend gave him a pair of goggles so he could see underwater. He loved watching the fish in the ocean and wished he could stay underwater longer and longer to 41vxsizt4yl_sl500_aa240_learn about the sea. An engineer friend of his invented the Aqualung (Mom Note: a breathing device allowing swimmers to breathe underwater for long periods of time.) He liked to explore the sea and the ocean animals with his boat, the Calypso. Soon Jacques Cousteau wanted to go even deeper so he invented the Diving Saucer which could carry 2 people and go 350 meters deep and the Sea Flea which could hold 1 person and go 500 meters down.

imagesHe filmed the first underwater (feature) film and a TV show, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” (Editor’s Note: I grew up watching this program and all his ‘specials’ on TV as a child.)

I liked the main character in this story because he loved the sea so much and so do I, and he had lots of adventures.

This book is for people to learn more about the sea, so maybe they would start to like it too. I think the author did such a good job that I would like read more books by this author, especially more books unknownabout the sea, and ocean animals.

Oh and by the way, in addition to telling such an interesting story, Yaccarino’s art was good-looking, stylish, fantastic. It was drawn in a cartoony way and the drawings are very colorful.

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