Cindy: Photosynthesis never looked so beautiful! Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas (Scholastic/Blue Sky 2012) is a new offering from the dynamic duo of children’s author-illustrator Molly Bang and MIT professor Penny Chisholm who brought us Living Sunlight (2009). Just how does the ocean produce half of the oxygen we breathe every day? Enter phytoplankton, stage right. And once children see the spreads showing the important phytoplankton living near the surface of the ocean where the sunlight can reach it and where it enters the food chain they will be hooked. Gorgeous illustrations and clear text dive deep into the dark depths of the ocean to explain how the animals feed far below and how their left overs get back to the surface to provide nutrients for the phytoplankton.
As in the companion books, the sun narrates the text, explaining its role in this complex process. The many facts are made more clear by Bang’s vibrant tropical colored double page spreads. The scenes of the microscopic phytoplankton and tiny zooplankton are as fascinating as those of the larger and more familiar dolphins and whales. And then there are the strange critters from deep in the water, some that glow and some that look more suited to the cover of a science fiction novel. In addition to all that this book accomplishes, I hope its use with children will help them to realize just how much depends on us taking care of these big oceans. How much is going on in them that we cannot see. How important our stewardship of our whole planet is.
Lynn: This book really comes to life after the quick review of photosynthesis when it plunges into the “great invisible pastures of the sea.” Both the text and illustrations are vibrant and work together in a lovely partnership to clearly explain this very sophisticated concept to young readers. Molly Bang’s luminous illustrations are enthralling, both in the minutely detailed organisms and the glowing 2-page scenes. I was awed by the stunning contrast of the pages depicting the dark depths of the sea where “marine snow” sustains an infinite variety of life to the pages showing the sun-drenched ocean’s surface. Gorgeous and illuminating in multiple ways. The focus group especially liked the close-up drawings of the fascinating organisms that inhabit the seas. Children will love this book both as a classroom read aloud and as one to sit and pour over by themselves.
I read this book in galley and greatly regret that as there are several pages to come with Notes About the Book that I haven’t seen yet. This book and Living Sunlight are a perfect pairing for classrooms and libraries everywhere.
Common Core Connections
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
Read the picture book aloud. Discuss the concept of food chains. Group the students into small groups and ask them to illustrate a food chain while circulating the book and giving the students an opportunity to look more closely at the illustrations. Ask each group to select a good example of how the book illustrates food chains. Bring the class back together and ask each group to report about their choice and why. Have the students also share their own illustrations.