Thursday, January 28, 2010
Down, Down, Down, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin, Thomas Allen & Son, 2009. $21.50 ages 8 and up
"They may be pursuing prey, escaping danger, or sending a message to others of their kind. Whatever the reason, sea creatures sometimes leap from the water into the air. A huge shark, surging upward to grab its prey, lands with a splash that could empty a swimming pool. A small, sleek squid barely misses us as it shoots by, slipping back into the water with barely a ripple. Other creatures break the surface as well..."
I am always excited to see a new book by the talented and research-driven Steve Jenkins. I eagerly anticipate what I am going to learn whenever I choose to take a close look at his newest offerings; and I am not disappointed this time either. There is so much to learn, and I never feel overwhelmed by what he chooses to share. That is why I would love it if you and your children and students would check out his work, no matter the subject. He amazes me with his wide ranging interests and his neverending questions about animals, habitats, the world and our place in it.
In this wonderful book, he chose one subject...the ocean and he fills us with so much informaion that I was mesmerized for an hour, returning to check the depths, the colors, the text. Beginning at the surface, he shows us how the gathered information will be shared. The illustrations are up to his usual standard, using cut paper collage and brilliant color (and then diminishing color)to let intrigued readers see the life that exists at each depth. There is a text box, filled with all that 'stuff' I didn't know and didn't know I wanted to know. On the right side, he shows a measuring stick so that we can follow it from the top to the bottom of the ocean.
We move from the surface to the sunlight zone and then down, down, down to the twilight zone, the dark zone, the Abyssal plain, the hydrothermal vents and the Marianis trench. Who would have guessed...except those whose passion and perhaps vocation is the study of this wonder-filled place.
You will recognize many of the creatures depicted in the sunlight zone...near the surface the water is warm and the sun keeps it that way. This is the place where people can dive to see the life that exists for 10 metres below the surface. After that scuba equipment is needed to make a dive. He gives us access to the life that exists in the twilight zone, where only animals can live. Without light, plant life cannot survive. It is completely dark to the human eye.
And so we go down into the even murkier depths of this astonishing ecosystem. The creatures become stranger, and have adapted complicated ways of protecting themselves and of finding food. Throughout the descent the sidebar keeps us attuned to the depth we have reached, the temperature at that depth and the ocean life that can still be found there. AMAZING! Kids will constantly want to share what they are learning as they go, appreciating the artwork, the accessible information shared and the chance to explore something rarely documented.
Nothing prepared me for what I would learn in this remarkable book and while it does not encourage me to try deep sea diving, or even yearn to know more about the ocean, it has upped my knowledge about something that I thought I did know, when really I knew very little. What a spectacular place this home called Earth really is!