- by Carol Standish
If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Sign of the Seahorse: A Tale of Greed and High Adventure in Two Acts by Graeme Base, you’ll be glad to know that this irresistable 1998 classic “undersea” story is still in print and available. Base illustrates his own stories and the pictures are intricate, humorous and overflowing with color and energy. A diving adventure in Martinique inspired the multi-talented Australian to write this rhyming tale in which Gropmund Grouper pollutes the reef and defrauds the inhabitants of their homes. Pearl Trout, her brother Finneus, Combat Lobster 46903 and Soldiercrab Army Corporal Bert rally to put things right.
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, illustrated by David Shannon, is another illustration tour de force. Shannon definitely has the wide variety of pirate noses down pat but teeth are another subject. Hero Jeremy Jacob’s physical claim to fame is a full set of teeth but, “pirates have green teeth—when they have any teeth at all.” This is the opening line of Jeremy’s adventure on the pirate ship, having been enlisted as a “digger”. (The pirates have a treasure to bury and they have seen evidence of Jeremy’s digging prowess in the elaborate sand castle he’s building on the beach.) After a stormy night aboard, Jeremy and the pirates bury the treasure in the back yard of his own house, which Jeremy finds infinitely more comfortable and comforting than a pirate ship, even if vegetables were banned from the dinner table.
For the older crowd, Sarah’s Boat by Douglas Alvord is a charming story of grandfather, an old schoonerman teaching his granddaughter to sail in a Maine cover. Alvord is an accomplished marine illustrator and in addition to the engaging story, also provides attractive diagrams which explain the major principles of sailing. Sarah was given an 8-foot “Puddleduck” sailing dinghy for her 11th birthday which she prefers to riding her bike because “being out on the water made her feel accomlished and independent.” That is, until a know-it-all summer boy made fun of the boat. Grandfather comes to the rescue. Together they restore a Bluejay sloop. “...you’ve got to put a little work in her yourself, so she’ll know she’s yours.” Sarah races in the Labor Day and beats the Connecticut boy with grandfather’s sea-wise tricks.
There is a plethora of seashell books to help kids in their collecting efforts, but two are especially attractive Maine products. Seashells in My Pocket, by Kennebunk author/editor Judith Hansen and illustrated by local artist, Donna Sabaka has just been released in a second edition. It is a child’s nature guide to exploring the Atlantic coast. Along with locator maps, checklists, and tips on safety and protecting the environment, the handsome illustrations and clear text identify the shells, sea creatures, seashore plants, birds, and insects from Maine to Florida. The author says, the book was “created for children but enjoyed by all ages.”
What the Sea Left Behind by Biddeford artist/author/illustrator, Mimi Gregoire Carpenter tells a simple tale of discovery as a little girl walks along a Maine beach. Carpenter’s illustrations, while anatomically accurate, have the vivacity of fantasy. No dry scientific representation here. Color and detail inspire a close look underfoot.