Life in the Ocean

The Story of the Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

This post is part of Nonfiction Monday 
hosted today by Ana's Nonfiction Blog
(pub. 3.13.2012)  32 pages 

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

A uthor and illustrator: Claire A. Nivola
haracter: Sylvia Earle

O verview from the jacket flap: 

      "Sylvia Earle was a biologist and botanist long before she even knew what those words meant. As a child, she spent hours observing plant and animal life on her family's farm, but it was when they moved to Florida and Sylvia discovered the Gulf of Mexico in her backyard that she lost her heart to the ocean... Whether she's designing submersibles for exploration, living underwater for two weeks, or taking deepwater walks, Sylvia Earle has dedicated her life to learning more about, and urgently calling on all of us to protect, what she calls 'the blue heart of the planet...'" 
T antalizing taste: 

      "Pictures of whales, says Sylvia, make them look 'big and fat and ponderous and lumpy ... Whales are like swallows ... like otters ... They move in any direction. They swim upside down. They're vertical. They're every which way... They are sleek and elegant and gorgeous, among the most exquisite creatures on the planet. They move like ballerinas... Rollicking, frolicking creatures, doing all this wonderful dancing in the sea.'"
      Sylvia has even heard whales singing while she has been underwater, and, once, the force of the sound waves made her entire body vibrate and shake... [S]ound waves travel four times faster in water than in air, so whales can communicate across vast distances. Sylvia says that hearing their haunting and beautiful songs in the sea is like being inside the heart of an orchestra."

and something more:  Just the other week, I had the incredible opportunity to see a gray whale in the San Francisco Bay! My good friend, Julie, kindly called me, excitement bubbling over, to tell me that she had just spotted a whale from her window.  From the Tiburon boardwalk and from Julie's deck, we watched the whale spouting in the bay -- each new sighting of a sparkling spray of white or the sleek curve of the whale's back elicited more "ohs and ahs" from us and the others out enjoying the rare sight. And then, we were rewarded with a sighting of the whale's spectacular tale whooshing up through the water, reminding me of a very large moustache.  And, in Claire Nivola's words, I could imagine the whale "rollicking, frolicking ... dancing in the sea." Just so amazing to think of that enormous creature right there out in the water.  
          The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explaining that the gray whales are currently migrating from Baja California to Arctic waters.  She said that the strong currents in the strait between Angel Island and Tiburon appeals to the whales, and that often the whales detour in the bay during their migration.  However, she also said that climate change may also be a factor -- the shrinking ice caps in the Arctic may be changing the whales' feeding grounds and patterns.  And, of course, that's worrisome. 
         Claire Nivola's delicate, detailed illustrations perfectly complement her thought-provoking text.  Her inspiring Author's Note explains that "Sylvia Earle would like us all to delight as much as she does in the underwater world, in the ingenuity and variety of our fellow creatures who dwell there. But she has also seen close-up how the ocean is suffering at our hands. She believes it is our ignorance of what is at stake that is in large part to blame... [Sylvia wrote], 'Looking into the eyes of a wild dolphin - who is looking into mine - inspires me to learn everything I can about them and do everything I can to take care of them ... You can't care if you don't know.'" And that's just why a book such as Life in the Ocean is so important.


Alice@Supratentorial said...

This looks great! I reviewed a book this week illustrated by Claire Nivola and I really loved her paintings. I'll have to check this one out.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Thanks for stopping by. I just checked out your review of The Flag Maker illustrated by Claire Nivola -- I hadn't heard about it, so I'm off to read that one next. Thanks!

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Hi Jeanne, this is the second time that I've seen a review of this lovely book. I am truly intrigued. Thanks for sharing this! Will look out for it.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Thanks for stopping by, Myra