Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea

Christine Butterworth, Author, John Lawrence, Illustrator , illus. by John Lawrence. Candlewick $16.99 (26p) ISBN 978-0-7636-2989-2

With Lawrence's (This Little Chick ) signature mixed-media artwork and an oblong trim size, this book aptly mirrors the distinctive sea creature at its center. Butterworth's conversational, often lyrical prose demystifies the timid Barbour's sea horse: "He can only swim slowly,/ so if a hungry snapper cruises by,/ looking for a snack,/ Sea Horse does something very clever:/ he holds still and changes color/ (now you see him...)/ until he's almost invisible/ (now you don't!)." Three panels depict his transformation, while text set in smaller type offers additional details (e.g., "The way sea horses change the color of their skin to blend in with their surroundings is called camouflage"). A few weeks after an intriguing mating dance, it's the male who "works hard all day/ and through the night,/ .../ shooting hundreds/ of babies out of his pouch." The rest of the book focuses on a female: "This new sea horse is only/ as long as your eyelash,/ but she can find/ her own food right away." Lawrence's vinyl engravings, backed by a pale sea-foam green watercolor wash, please the eye with a subtle palette of earth-tone browns and coral reds plus beautifully etched ocean flora and fauna. The layout can sometimes feel a bit busy, with several rectangular prints alongside text in two typefaces. But the pages brim with information. This compact book is sure to fascinate. Ages 4-8. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/08/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!