Monday, April 16, 2012

Life in the Ocean - a review

I've just returned from vacation and have some catching up to do, but I didn't want to let Nonfiction Monday pass by without highlighting Claire A. Nivola's beautiful picture book, Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle.

Nivola, Claire A. 2012. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Born in 1935, Sylvia Earle rode in a single passenger airplane at the age of 5, was diving by the age of 16, went on an expedition in the Indian Ocean (the only female member of the expedition!), helped design a submersible diving bubble, once lived for 2 weeks under water, and served as the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Ostensibly a biographical story of the admirable, Sylvia Earle, Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle is this and more.

Life in the Ocean inspires the reader to follow his dreams, wherever they may lead, and for the reader already interested in the natural world, and marine environments in particular, Life in the Ocean calls him to explore,

     We have explored only 5 percent of the ocean.  We know more about the planets in outer space than we know about the sea on our very own home planet!
Claire Nivola's detailed paintings illustrate her intense interest in the natural world, showing even a lone mussel or skate egg sac on the ocean floor.  Most of the illustrations are large and surrounded by white space, offset by manageable blocks of text in a simple font.  However, smaller square illustrations are used to highlight the two more biographical pages of the book - each square featuring a milestone in Earle's life. The painting of a humpback whale swimming past Sylvia is stunningly serene, but calls to mind our individual insignificance on the planet. Check out Macmillan's Flickr gallery of artwork from Life in the Ocean to see this (though truncated) and many other illustrations from the book.

A lengthy and illustrated Author's Note contains additional information on Sylvia Earle and the current state of the earth's oceans. A Selected Bibliography rounds out this engaging and informational text.

Beautiful, inspiring and enlightening. Highly recommended.

Other reviews @
Waking Brain Cells
Kirkus Reviews

While Sylvia Earle may have "lost her heart to the water," after leaving her home in New Jersey for Florida, the ocean here in New Jersey is also a source of constant wonder, where my family has enjoyed sighting whales, dolphins, bio luminescent creatures lighting up the evening breakers, wave-surfing manta rays, and all manner of other more mundane, but nonetheless fascinating creatures.  Life in the Ocean reminds me that these everyday marvels may not always be so. They need our support as well as our admiration.

Dr. Sylvia Earle displays samples to aquanaut inside TEKTITE.
  Source: NOAA Photo Library
OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP)

If you're interested in what Sylvia Earle is doing today, visit Mission Blue: Sylvia Earle Alliance.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at The Nonfiction Detectives.


  1. Love the aquanaut photo.

    Only 5% of the ocean- how amazing. What a future there is in that!

    1. I am hoping that it will be my daughter's future. She, too, has "lost her heart to the water." :)

  2. This sounds like a wonderful non fiction addition for our class library. Thank you!

  3. I love books about chasing dreams and I enjoy looking at the ocean. Will be sure to check this one out. Thank you for the review!


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