Menorah Under the Sea by Esther Susan Heller

40926932Lynn: Biologist David Ginsburg had a dilemma. He was researching in Antarctica where it was summer. How could he celebrate Hanukkah when it never got dark? As David dove into the dark freezing water to study the sea urchins he was there to research, that question stayed in his mind. Just before he had to surface he found his answer in the glowing shapes of the sea urchins. He quickly arranged them in the shape of the menorah with its eight candles and tall shamash helper candle and took a picture before the creatures drifted away. Back on the surface, he and the other Jewish scientists celebrated Hanukkah in a unique way. The Menorah Under the Sea (Kar-Ben 2009) is definitely not your usual Hanukkah book! While still providing excellent information about the holiday for young readers, it offers an intriguing blend of information on other subjects including what is like to be a researcher at the Antarctic, facts about sea urchins and an inspiring picture of people practicing their faith even under difficult circumstances. The full-page photographs are fascinating. I loved the picture of the scientists getting ready to dive into the water as a penguin goes by. This unusual book would work wonderfully for holiday story hours and may motivate children to search out other books on the topics.

down-downCindy: I like the unusual approach to Hanukkah in the Heller book and the fact that it recognizes a scientist who cares deeply about his religion and traditions. I can’t imagine diving in Antarctic water, though…brrr. I was fascinated by another deep sea book this year, Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins (Houghton, 2009) This was a good year for paper collage illustration, and Jenkins is a master. This book starts at the surface of the ocean and with each successive page turn, the reader descends farther into the dark and mysterious world of creatures we rarely see. A status bar on the right shows the depth in feet and meters and provides the average water temperature. Only the first few pages are in the Sunlight Zone with familiar sea creatures and then readers move through the Twilight Zone with Vampire Squid, the Dark Zone with bioluminescent Pelican Eels, to the Abyssal Plain with Swimming Sea Cucumbers and “a layer of ooze that may be thousands of feet thick.” Then it’s on to the Hydrothermal Vents with Giant Tube Worms to the Marianas Trench, the deepest spot in the sea almost 7 miles down, down, down. Young researchers will be scrambling for for more information about these strange creatures. A good start is right at the back of the book. Here’s the info on the Vampire Squid:

The vampire squid has the largest eyes, for its body size, of any animal. Its scientific name means “vamire squid from hell,” perhaps because its eight arms are lined with fleshy hooks as well as suckers. Its body, which is about one foot (30 centimeters) long, is covered with light-producing organs. They can be flashed on and off rapidly to confuse prey or predators.

Thanks to Rasco From RIF for hosting this week’s Nonfiction Monday blog round nonfictionmonday1up!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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