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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Giant Squid, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"In the murk ... an eye!
Some are as big as soccer balls.
The biggest eyes on the planet.

So it can spy pinpoints of light
in its pitch-black world.

I did not do justice to this remarkable book when I shared it at my fall workshops! I had only read it once, and it deserves multiple readings for the beauty of its language, the richness of its oil paintings and the intriguing information it shares. Now that I have read it a number of times, I am ready to tell you about it so you can tell others.

I know - it is not likely a subject you thought you would find yourself wanting to know more about. Doesn't everyone have a bit of an uneasy feeling even considering what it might feel like to be wrapped in tentacles, and then squeezed? You need not worry. It is hard not to be captivated by Candace Fleming's free verse account of what has been learned about the giant squid in a very short time.

"So elusive is the giant squid that the first time scientists ever saw a living one was in 2006. And only in 2012 did they capture brief film footage of one swimming in the cold, dark depths of the Pacific Ocean, 2,066 feet below the surface."
She has done meticulous research to create an amazing and articulate text that shares what scientists have learned and continue to learn. She also voices many questions that remain unanswered concerning these giants.

"It is a mystery.
After all, how can you know
about an animal hidden from view?"

Eric Rohmann's teal backdrop allows readers to see the squid only in parts - the tentacles, the enormous eye, the hard tooth, its inky protection from predators. After foiling a barracuda on a hunt for dinner, a gatefold opens to help readers grasp the enormity of the creature itself.

The book's design is dramatic and atmospheric. White text on a dark background is easily read and almost gives off a light of its own. Front matter takes readers into the deep sea, teases with questions and shares clues used by scientists to conduct studies, and then invites us to learn even more as we move past the title page. Back matter adds a labeled diagram of the giant squid, an author's note, a bibliography, online websites, and a list of other books that might be of interest.

Among the many awards it is sure to receive, in November it was named an Honor Book for the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. There will be more.

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