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.