In their third picture-book outing, Franco and Wertz (A Dazzling Display of Dogs, 2011, etc.) dive into the sea.
A sunny day provides the perfect entree for a poetic snorkeling trip revealing dozens of aquatic organisms illustrated through Wertz’s vivid depictions of Franco’s concrete poems (with the occasional limerick, cinquain, riddle, and haiku tossed in). Where the duo’s last effort rather literally threatened to “dazzle” the senses, here Wertz’s striking palette of blues, indigo, orange, reds, and yellow, showcased in richly detailed images and undulating lettering, effectively captures the sea’s dynamism. Franco spotlights interesting fish and other creatures one might glimpse during a dive, highlighting vital aspects of oceanic life cycles and special characteristics of organisms sure to pique a child’s interest. The “Spiny Puffer” is cleverly likened to a porcupine, and “Cleaner Fish” are “wary of fish with sharp white teeth, / so cleaner fish are wise. / They’ve found a way to get along, / help out, and harmonize. / They clean the teeth of scary fish / who’d eat them / otherwise.” Young and old Nemo devotees will delight to find among Wertz’s wavy orange fronds Franco’s revelation as to “why clown fish hang out in the anemones”—it “poison[s] all your enemies”—and other engagingly rhymed facts.
At once light, visually playful, and educational, Franco and Wertz’s latest collaboration proves the third time’s a charm. (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)