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Dive Into Ocean Books!

Share Each year, book publishers introduce an ocean of new resources relating to the sea and the creatures that live in it. This week, Education World reviews a handful of the latest books, including general titles about sea creatures and specific titles about sharks and dolphins.

Considering that water covers much of our planet, we know surprisingly little about the sea and the creatures that inhabit it. This week, Education World reviews four new books about the ocean and the amazing creatures that live there.


For 97 percent of what's alive on Earth, this is the place. Water covers almost three-quarters of the planet, but we've explored less than 5 percent of it.
-- Jonathan Grupper, Destination: Deep Sea

Book Cover Image In Destination: Deep Sea (National Geographic Society), author Jonathan Grupper leads readers on a captivating imaginary voyage through a world about which, until recently, human beings could only dream. Beginning with a snorkeling exploration of a coral reef, about 15 feet beneath the surface, readers travel farther down into the ocean's depths as they turn the pages. Along the way, they trade snorkeling equipment for scuba gear, then for a one-person submersible and, finally, for an ROV --remotely operated vehicle -- as the deep-water environment becomes increasingly inhospitable to human life.

Grupper's text, written in the second person, engages readers and helps develop the premise that they are participating in a deep-sea excursion. In one section, he writes

Seventy feet, 80 feet. You are piloting a one-person submersible, a kind of deep-sea scooter, into waters unknown. You can see clearly in every direction --until you reach 100 feet, where darkness begins to descend on the ocean. Welcome to the twilight zone. Here, there's less sunlight, which means fewer plants and less oxygen for marine life to breathe. What could survive down here? Flip on your lights and find out.

Visually, the book is a treat. Each two-page spread is vividly illustrated with spectacular full-color photographs from a variety of photographers. From serene and familiar scenes of dolphins swimming through temperate waters to unusual shots of little-known deep-water fish with such alarming names as fangtooth and black devil, the photographs help convey the diversity of aquatic life.

Grupper is the author of other National Geographic Society books, including Destination: Rainforest and Destination: Polar Regions. Tierney Thys, the book's technical consultant, is the science editor for the National Geographic film series The Shape of Life. Together, they have created a book that is sure to stimulate readers' interest in the life-forms beneath the surface of the sea.

Book Cover Image


Did you know that the sea sponge has survived for 500 million years, despite having no brain? Or that a starfish's mouth is located in the center of the underside of its body? In Sea Critters, another book from the National Geographic Society, readers will discover dozens of animals that live in the oceans.

The book is divided into eight sections of two to four pages. Each section explores a major division of animal life, such as portifera (sponges); mollusks (snails, slugs, clams, etc.); and chordates (sharks, dolphins, whales, rays, etc.). In clear text, author Sylvia A. Earle explains the basic characteristics and offers examples of each type of sea life.

Known mostly for their pretty shells, the soft-bodied critters are called MOLLUSKS. Some --snails and winkles and whelks --have one shell and crawl around on a slick, smooth foot. Others --scallops, oysters, mussels, and clams --have two shells. The brightly colored sea slug, called a nudibranch, has no shell at all. Gills and eyestalks up, it glides along, belly down, scouting for a meal.

In an endnote to parents and teachers, Earle --who happens to be an accomplished marine biologist, lecturer, and ocean explorer as well as an author --provides an illustrated Sea Critters' Family Tree, listing the animals described in the book by division.

Wolcott Henry's colorful underwater photographs complement Earle's simple, concise text. Henry, an underwater photographer who has explored coral reef areas all over the world, is very involved in North American marine conservation.


Book Cover Image In The Best Book of Sharks (Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc.), author Clare Llewellyn provides a simple, easily understood overview of the wide range of sharks. From the gentle, 40-foot-long whale shark that feeds only on the smallest of sea creatures to the frightening sandtiger shark with its many rows of sharp, spiked teeth, these often-misunderstood animals are presented in all their diversity.

Written for elementary school readers, The Best Book of Sharks explains how sharks swim, feed, use camouflage, and breed. There are also sections on the interactions of humans and sharks that highlight the rarity of shark attacks --roughly 100 attacks each year --the danger of extinction some species face, and the methods scientists use to study sharks.

The text is fairly comprehensive yet easy for young readers. Colorful, detailed pictures by Ray Grinaway and Roger Stewart help illustrate the differences between different kinds of sharks. A glossary and an index help young students better understand the information presented. The Best Book of Sharks would be an excellent classroom tool for teaching youngsters about these intriguing creatures.


Dolphins and humans have a lot in common. We are both mammals. We nurse our young, which are born alive, not hatched from eggs. Mammals breathe air. A dolphin must come to the surface to breathe ... . Both dolphins and humans are warm-blooded.
          --Mary M. Cerullo, Dolphins: What They Can Teach Us

Book Cover Image For as long as anyone can remember, people have told stories about dolphins' rescuing drowning swimmers, guiding lost ships to safety, and otherwise aiding humans in trouble. In Dolphins: What They Can Teach Us (Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Putnam), Mary M. Cerullo thoroughly explores the world of these intriguing and appealing animals. She examines the way dolphins live --their family life, how they hunt for food, the ways they defend themselves from predators --their means of communication, and their interactions with humans, both in the wild and in captivity.

Youngsters will especially enjoy learning about a unique way dolphins interact with humans: as therapists. In programs in the United States, Israel, and England, dolphins aid in the treatment of people --both adults and children --who are coping with physical and mental disabilities, recovering from surgery or cancer treatment, or fighting to overcome depression. Cerullo writes, "The dolphins show infinite patience and unconditional love."

The book includes a glossary to help readers with new words and phrases and a bibliography divided into adult and children's titles. Lively, colorful photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman --who traveled extensively to capture images of dolphins at play with one another and in interaction with children and adults --enhance the well-written, informative text. Dolphins: What They Can Teach Us is an excellent resource for those new to the study of dolphins as well as more knowledgeable readers.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate a book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly:

  • Destination Deep Sea, written by Jonathan Grupper, and Sea Critters, written by Sylvia A. Earle, Ph.D., and photographed by Wolcott Henry, are published by National Geographic Society, 1145 17th Street N.W., Washington, D.C., 20036-4688.
  • The Best Book of Sharks, written by Clare Llewellyn and illustrated by Ray Grinaway and Roger Stewart, is published by Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., 95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
  • Dolphins: What They Can Teach Us, written by Mary M. Cerullo and photographed by Jeffrey L. Rotman, is published by Dutton Children's Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.

Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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