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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Water Sings Blue, written by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Meilo So. Chronicle Books, 2012. Raincoast. $18.99 ages 6 and up

"We used to be rocks,
we used to be stones.
We stood proud as castles,
altars, and thrones.

Once we were massive,
looming in rings,
holding up temples
and posing as kings."

Kate Coombs has penned twenty-three poems to delight and intrigue us about the ocean and the many creatures who live in, and near, it. They are filled with evocative, descriptive language that gives the reader a real sense of the habitat and makes us feel a part of the wonders it holds.

It is celebratory, and begins with an invitation:

"Push away from the stillness of the nut-brown land,
form the road that leads to the shore.

Push away from the town with its tight tree roots,
from its closed brown shutters and doors.

Push away - heave-ho- from the heavy brown pier,
from its pilings huddled and dull.

For the water sings blue and the sky does, too,
and the sea lets you fly like a gull."

What a lovely introduction!

As with all poetry, they are meant to be read aloud. Most are short enough that they encourage repeated readings and may even become favorites. Constantly changing, and often laced with humor, these poems give a sense of the ocean's  vast and beautiful expanse.

The design carefully considers placement of text alongside Meilo So's gorgeous watercolor artwork. I wanted to point you toward my favorite one, but that keeps changing. The first time I read the book, I was taken by the brilliant-hued 'water artist' sharing the page with a shark and his potential meal of little fish. The next time I was intrigued by the three jellyfish poems, accompanied by three entirely different images, created with bright color and wavy lines. The last time, it was the changing perspective effected by the vast bulk of a blue whale diving down toward a sunken ship. Amazing!

You can even stop to shop at a tide pool:

"I'm going shopping at the tide pool.
They carry everything there -
mussels by the bushel
and three kinds of barnacle,
starfish and gobies to spare.

My mama gave me a shopping list.
I know I can find what she likes -
blennies for pennies,
beadlet anemones,
and urchins with lavender spikes."

From land to sea, to the depths of the ocean and back, to the flotsam that gathers along its shore, and the tide as it retreats leaving gifts for beach goers and treasure seekers, there are poems here to inform, engage and entrance us. What a truly exceptional book this is!

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