By Jason Chin
Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Flash Point (October 25, 2011)
What to expect: Science, Nature, Biology, Marine life, Water
Jason Chin does something pretty wonderful in his nonfiction book, Coral Reefs: He hasn’t forgotten the wild imagination of a kid.
What makes Coral Reefs unique is that along with loads of interesting information, he’s included colorful watercolor illustrations that tell their own story. In a sense he is blurring the boundary between fiction and nonfiction. The result is something completely engaging. And this hybrid form dishes out just enough facts without overwhelming. So you learn that though coral reefs may look like plants, they’re actually animals; and at the same time, the pictures, which often take up more than half the page, tell the story of a girl who goes to the library and picks up a book about coral reefs.
You learn coral reefs are the largest structures built by an animal on earth! The Belize barrier reef is over 180 miles long!; and at the same time, the illustrations show the girl’s world transforming, with the library slipping away and turning into coral, along with sea plants and fish. “There are so many species living in reefs that they are often called the cities of the sea,” writes Chin. And the water whooshes into the library, and the girl is swept up on a wave that carries with it octopus, sea turtles, fish and more coral. Very quickly, the girl is floating underwater, exploring and learning about the city of the sea. It’s a city, Chin tells us, with “a complex web of relationships, and each has its own place in the system.”
“There are so many species living in reefs that they are often called the cities of the sea,”
After you’ve fallen in love with coral reefs and the teeming life that calls it home—“More than four thousand kinds of fish and thousands of other species have been discovered in coral reefs—more than in any other part of the ocean”—after he’s completely hooked you, Chin has bad news. The reefs, just like so many other living things, are threatened by pollution and over-fishing. Thankfully, he gives a list of things you can do to help. You can—and you’ll want to—form a relationship with the reefs.
Add this book to your collection: Coral Reefs
Nina Schuyler‘s first novel, The Painting, (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill/2004), was a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards. It was also selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books for 2004 and a “Great Debut from 2004” by the Rocky Mountain News. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of San Francisco and is working on a third novel.