An aquatic tale provides a sensitive environmental message, beautiful illustrations, and a relatable heroine.



A young girl discovers the importance of ocean conservation and her connection to all life during a magical adventure under the sea.

In her idyllic home near the ocean, a girl named Umijoo devours, “as quick as blinking,” the fish dinner that her father has prepared for her, prompting him to remind her that “food is more than just a dish. / There’s time and life and sacrifice / behind each bite of rice and fish.” In this lovely, large-format, rhyming picture book for ages 9 and up by noted marine conservation activist Trenor (Sustainable Sushi, 2009), Umijoo’s father gives her a magic stone that enables her to go on an undersea journey. Before returning to shore, she will learn to appreciate the diversity of life the ocean offers and to understand how people affect it, as individual creatures speak, inviting empathy for their plight due to inhumane practices, overfishing, and pollution. In the author’s rhythmic tale, the book’s message about the need to respect and protect the health of the oceans and to understand humans’ connection to them and all life is delivered with age-appropriate clarity and graceful imagery. As Umijoo sinks deeper and deeper beneath the ocean surface, she encounters a vivid display of life in a coral reef—tiny fish “like shining seeds” and “soft rosy pink” shrimp—a school of fish who resemble “gleaming shards of shattered glass,” an octopus who poses a soulful riddle, and, in the dark abyss near the ocean floor, a monstrous but melancholy angler fish with bioluminescent appeal and “two tremendous rows of teeth that gleamed like racks of sharpened knives.” The text is stunningly realized in pop surrealist Koopman’s dreamlike paintings of ocean denizens, land flora and fauna, and Umijoo herself. Well-researched and interpreted through the debut illustrator’s unique artistic prism, these paintings (full-bleed, with many in double-page spreads) are a feast for the eyes, alive with lavish details and richly saturated colors.

An aquatic tale provides a sensitive environmental message, beautiful illustrations, and a relatable heroine.

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73286-050-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Shark & Siren Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)


Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again.


Hunt for a bear? That’s so yesterday.

On a spooky Halloween night, we’re hunting for…a green GOON. We’re not really scared. Let’s start in a pumpkin patch. We can’t go over or under it, so we’ll just go through it. We’ll do the same in other likely goon hideouts: a swamp, a tunnel, a forest, a graveyard, and, finally, a haunted house. In this atmospheric “petrifying parody” of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a dad and his four kids, dressed in Halloween finery and accompanied by their costumed pup, search for the elusive quarry. They become more frightened (particularly dad and pooch, even from the outset) as they proceed along the increasingly murky path—except for the youngest, unicorn-outfitted child, who squeals a delighted welcome to whatever creature unexpectedly materializes. As in the classic original, evocative sound effects (“Gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss!”) ring out as the quintet moves through each hazard. Unsurprisingly, the group locates the goon, forcing them to retrace their steps home in a frenzied hurry, odd noises and all. They reach safety to discover…uh-oh! Meanwhile, someone’s missing but having a ball! Even readers who’ve never read or heard about the bear expedition will appreciate this clever, comical, fast-paced take. The colorful line illustrations are humorously brooding and sweetly endearing, with the family (all members present White) portrayed as growing steadily apprehensive. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-20.8-inch double-page spreads viewed at 74.6% of actual size.)

Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984813-62-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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