This third pairing of Elliott’s reductive poems and Meade’s bold woodcut-and-watercolor illustrations dives deep to explore sea creatures, from tiny shrimp to the mighty blue whale.
Elliott’s poems are short and pithy, often combining elegant metaphor and child-friendly diction. “Five fingers, / like a hand, / the starfish shines / in a sky of sand.” He doesn’t shy from big words that expand children’s imaginations and vocabularies: An octopus is “an eight-armed apparition.” Humorous touches pleasantly conjure Douglas Florian’s poetry. The puffer fish is “A trickster. / A clown. / A magician. / A buffoon. / One minute / she’s a fish; / the next, / she’s a balloon.” Meade’s pictures combine appropriately watery washes with black-inked woodcuts. She conjures the “before” and “after” capabilities of said puffer fish, and her Moray eel undulates fearsomely. Not every spread is completely successful. “The Clown Fish” riffs on inter-species symbiosis, but Elliott stumbles with the possessive phrase “its enemies”—inviting confusion as to whether anemone stings its own enemies, or the clown fish’s. Meade’s shark, possibly a great white, prominently sports stylized throat grooves that more resemble several species of whale.
This mix of clever poems, handsome art and well-chosen typography, despite a few minor flaws, will function equally well for bedtime sharing and early-learning settings. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)