Friday, May 17, 2013

Getting ready for summer!

If you live in the south, Memorial Day weekend often signals the end of the school year... which means that by this time next week, some of you may be heading off to vacation! With that in mind, here are two books about the beach.

If you've ever strolled along the the Atlantic coastline, you've probably encountered an empty shell of a horseshoe crab. By the time we located them, they have already contributed to the ocean food web (think crab legs on the seafood buffet, but for birds who are not picky eaters). Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web by Victoria Crenson (2003) focuses on another contribution made to the ocean food web by horseshoe crabs: their eggs. During their mating season, horseshoe crabs crawl to the shore to lay and fertilize billions of eggs. As told by Crenson, many of these eggs are a food source for different animals, such as migrating birds traveling north from as far as South America. Smaller birds feasting on the eggs are themselves the food source for larger birds. Bigger fish prey on smaller fish feeding on the horseshoe crab eggs. You get the picture -- seven billion eggs don't result in seven billion horseshoe crabs (thankfully). Crenson's text, appropriate for upper intermediate and above, weaves a story of interdependence among many animals. Watercolor illustrations depict the scenes in full-page view. In the author's note (at the start of the book), Crenson shares her concern about the diminished presence of horseshoe crabs, particularly in the Delaware Bay area. Given their importance in the ocean food web, a decrease in horseshoe crabs would have a devastating effect on the delicate balance of life along the shore and beyond. You can check out a site for a horseshoe crab census here.

A second book about the shoreline is one of Frank Serafini's Looking Closely Along... series: Looking Closely Along the Shore. Published by Kids Can Press in 2008, this book follows a pattern of a page showing a small subset of photo and the text "Look very closely. What do you see?.... What could it be?" followed by a page spread with the full picture, identification, and about six or seven short sentences of information.  Sand dollars, palm trees, smooth coastal rock, and barnacles are some of the items profiled in the book. Serafini's vivid, up-close photographs are certain to engage young readers, and while some of the vocabulary may be unfamiliar, pronunciations are sometimes included (such as for conch shell). He includes a "Photographer's Note" in which he describes the importance of taking the time to look at the world around us. He states, "I hope to help people attend to nature, to things they might have normally passed by." This book would inspire any young explorer to indeed look more closely.

So whether you are heading to a vacation destination or just relaxing in your backyard with an umbrella-garnished cold drink, here's to a perfect pair of beach books!

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