Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon
In Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef, Marianne Berkes adapts the classic song, “Over in the Meadow,” to life in a coral reef. This counting rhyme explores ocean life from stingrays to pufferfish to seahorses. This engaging picture book invites interaction on many levels. The fun counting song includes many factual details about the coral reef habitat and the animals that live there with their babies. Whether they are squirting, puffing, jumping or skittering, the actions of each creature accurately reflects their real-life behavior.
At the end of the book, in addition to several pages of factual information about the coral reef community and how many babies these animals really have, Berkes includes ideas for more ways to interact with the book. She suggests actions for each behavior and ways to adapt those actions for fingerplays.
While the counting rhyme is a fun variation on an old favorite, it was the illustrations that really grabbed my attention. Jeanette Canyon created reliefs from polymer clay that were then photographed. The result is bright, three dimensional images with an amazing level of detail. The Tips from the Artist section includes explanations and illustrations of some of her techniques along with suggestions for using polymer clay to help children express their own creativity. I found myself drawn back to the illustrations time and time again, always noticing some new and delightful detail.
Over in the Ocean is just one of series of books by Berkes, based on “Over in the Meadow,” that combine counting with learning about animals around the world. If you enjoy this book, you might also want to try Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme (also illustrated by Jeanette Canyon), Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Winds Blow, Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under, and Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek.
This review also appeared on the Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Shelf Life blog on July 19, 2012.