October 17, 2012


Ocean Sunlight

How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas

By Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

The Blue Sky Press, 2012

ISBN #978-0545273220

Grades K-5

Nonfiction picture book

“Dive into the sea! Now flip over slowly, and look up. The water is shimmering with light—my light. I am your sun, your golden star. All ocean life depends on me; so does all life on land.”

I love books about the food chain, and this one delivers on a grand scale. Ocean Sunlight begins with an  explanation of photosynthesis and its value, and then goes on to relate that ocean plant life is part of the food chain. Seaweed is obvious, but the explanation of the food-producing phytoplankton is one of the best I’ve seen.

The book continues with the photic levels, explaining the amounts of light at the different divisions of the world’s oceans and shows the food chains in them. It continues to the deepest levels and discusses adaptations that the life has there to survive, including marine snow, the detritus that falls to the sea floor. The cycle concludes with the sun’s heat causing the water to move upward and bring the nutrients and CO2 back around.

This book can be read with many different grade levels and matched to the level of the children’s understanding. The art is bright and inviting and adds details to the informational text. It’s a lovely book and could lead to many discussions about food chains and webs while making a perfect introduction to the concept.

Several pages of back matter give much more detail, but as a science teacher, I’d love to have seen sources, a glossary, and more reading included in the back matter. Nonetheless, it’s a terrific book and one that every science teacher should know and introduce.

Activity 1 (younger)

List the plant and animal life in one of the food chains depicted in the book. Create a diagram or flow chart to show the different levels. Label and illustrate the food chain.

National Geographic has good information.

Here’s a fun food chain e-game.

Activity 2 (older)

Look up the word chemosynthesis. Compare and contrast the food production by chemosynthesis with photosynthesis. Identify what hydrothermal vents are. Then explain how tube worms and clams at deep sea vents use the hydrogen sulfide to make food.

This site has good information, but you might want to enlarge it so it doesn’t look so intimidating.

National Geographic has good information.

This site has a comparison of photosynthesis and chemosynthesis.

Author website with information

This review was a good one.

National Science Standard: LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, energy, and dynamics

Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

Book provided by Scholastic for Librarians’ Choices Book Reviews

Journey into the Deep

January 5, 2011

Journey into the Deep

Discovering New Ocean Creatures

By Rebecca L. Johnson

Millbrook Press, 2011

Series: Exceptional Science Titles for Intermediate Grades

ISBN-13: 978-0-7613-4148-2

Grades 4-8


This is an Orbis Pictus honor book!

Happy New Year! I’m kicking off this year with a new 2011 book that I loved. Thank you all for joining me as I begin my third year of blogging about books and science.

“Like a spaceship from a distant galaxy, the massive jellyfish hovers in the frigid water. Its meaty dome-shaped bell is as wide as a doorway and the color of a bad bruise. Beneath the bell, fleshy arms twist and sway. The bell contracts and the jellyfish glides backward. It relaxes, then contracts again. Contract, glide, relax. Contract, glide, relax. With a steady rhythm, the jellyfish pulses through the utter darkness of the deep sea.”

The deepest part of the sea is one of the last frontiers, and Journey into the Deep takes the reader to the depths of that frontier. You’ll see previously unknown species of life in close-up photographs and read about them in detail as you travel in the “living minestrone” and learn of the myriad life forms science is just beginning to find in the world cooperative Census of Marine Life.

Graphics mix well with sharp, close-up photographs of astonishing animal life amid the variety of ocean habitats. Sidebars give additional information relating to the study of science and the life depicted within the text. Detailed captions provide extra information to accompany the fascinating array of life forms.

This visually stunning book is informative and would fit well into upper elementary and middle school libraries. With the vast amount of scientific information appearing, this book is an excellent way to stay abreast of the latest research and findings. I read every bit of the text and reveled in the discoveries so beautifully documented on each spread.

Activity 1

Trace a food chain or web around one of the deep sea hydrothermal vents. Identify the adaptations each life form has that allow them to live within such a harsh environment.

See additional information about deep sea hydrothermal vents here.

More information about vents.

Activity 2

Define and explain chemosynthesis. Then compare it to photosynthesis.

This site gives information about chemosynthesis and hydrothermal vents.

Learn more about the whale decomposition studies being carried out at the University of Hawaii.

 Roberta at Wrapped in Foil has an excellent review of this book, too.

National science standard: Populations and ecosystems; diversity and adaptations of organisms; structure and function of living organisms

Book provided by publisher.


December 22, 2010

Oceans & Seas

By Margaret Hynes

Kingfisher, 2010

ISBN #978-0-7534-6415-1

Grades 4 to 7


“From the seashore to the deepest depths, oceans are home to the most diverse life on Earth. Plants are found only in the sunlit parts of the ocean. Animals are found at all depths, though more than 90 percent of all marine species dwell on the seabed, where a single rock can be home to as many as ten major groups of animals, such as corals, mollusks, and sponges.”

In another life I would be a marine biologist and this book confirmed that idea. In the new series, Navigators, Oceans and Seas is an in-depth look at the life in and around the oceans. It defines oceans and seas and provides information about the physical as well as life science of marine environments. Including archaeology, ecology, biomes, coastlines, Pangea, deep-sea exploration and the future of oceans, the layout is filled with facts and visually appealing art, diagrams, and photos.

I had great fun poring over this book and students will, too. The appealing cover holds a sea tortoise, along with colorful fish and a puffin. The art is stunning and catches the reader’s interest from the introductory information through the final back matter, which includes a large glossary, index, and final page of investigations.

Aimed at the middle ages, this book should be in every library. It’s comprehensive, fits with the science standards, and contains facts in a layout that is reader friendly, allowing the reader to go from cover to cover or select specific topics or sections. It’s a gorgeous book and the reasonable price makes it within the reach of library budgets. Take a look at this one. It fills a need for that middle group of readers—interesting and appealing.

Activity 1

Look up waves and study the physics of wave motion. Write a paragraph to explain the energy transfer from the wind to the water. Design a simple wave machine to show the action of waves.

Activity 2

Look up the destructive force of waves. Find two or three ways waves change coastlines and report on them, giving true life examples of their force.

This site has good information about the physics of waves.

This site has some interactive activities on waves.

National Science Standard: motion and forces; transfer of energy

Book provided by publisher.


June 2, 2010


By Mari Schuh

Capstone Press, 2010

ISBN #978-1-4296-3433-5


Grades Pre-K-2

“Hurricanes are huge, strong ocean storms. They can bring big waves, strong wind, and heavy rain to shore.”

Told in simple language, this book explains hurricanes on a beginning reader’s level. It follows the definition of a hurricane with an explanation about how it is formed, how meteorologists follow it (using that term), and how to stay safe and prepared for a hurricane. A section in the front matter explains the use of the difficult vocabulary unique to the study of hurricanes and the possible need for assisting the early reader.

This is a good book to introduce the concept of these often violent storms, especially at the beginning of hurricane season. With the recent, strong hurricane in Galveston, Texas, and the devastating New Orleans hurricane having been in the news, it’s a way to show what is happening from the science point of view. Knowledge is power, and is a way to explain a frightening storm.

While limited in word count for this level, I’d like to have seen something about evacuation as a means for staying safe and possibly something about the chances of hurricanes hitting cities that might allay the fears of those children in the hurricane zones.

This book is a great start for those kids interested in science and is one in a series of six books about natural disasters occurring on our earth.

Activity 1

When a hurricane develops, use this map to track the storm. This will introduce the concepts of latitude and longitude as well as follow the storm’s path. Discuss the locations of the hurricanes and use the map to identify where they storms begin.

The FEMA site has excellent children’s activities that will explain and increase their knowledge of these sorts of storms.

Activity 2

Look up the current list of hurricane names. Look up the retired names and discuss why they won’t be used again.

Activity 3

Being prepared is one way to lessen the worries of a young child. Use this site to create your own hurricane safety plan.  If you don’t live in a hurricane zone, do a simulated plan.

Visit Nonfiction Monday at Charlotte’s Library on June 7.

National Science Standard: changes in environment

Book provided by publisher

Way Down Deep In the Deep Blue Sea

September 2, 2009

Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea

By Jan Peck

Illustrated by Valeria Petrone

Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2004

Picture book

Ages 3-6



Way down deep
in the deep blue sea,
there’s a lot to find.
I guarantee!

Come on! Be brave!
Just follow me!
And let’s explore
the deep blue sea!


Snappy rhyme takes the reader on a deep sea adventure where all sorts of sea creatures await the arrival of the young explorer in the book. The delightful pictures done in bright colors add to the excitement of each underwater encounter. The story’s ending provides a nice surprise as the young boy’s day comes to a close.

Activity 1

Look up seahorse, hermit crab, starfish, sea turtle, octopus, dolphin, swordfish, whale, or sharkand learn more about these animals in the book.

Activity 2

Look up other animals that live in the ocean. Get some ideas here.

Try some of these activities.

Or color some ocean animals.

Other books in the series by Jan Peck also have science related subjects.

Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree

Way Far Away on a Wild Safari

National science standard: characteristics of animals


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