Today’s book is a wonder to behold. Originally published in Portugal in 2012, this is one of the most beautiful non-fiction books that published in the U.S. this year. A stunning treasury of big and small facts all related to the ocean. Be wowed by Ocean: A Visual Miscellany by Ricardo Henriques and André Letria, 2018. 

What is it about?

The ocean “is the largest known inhabited space in our universe.” 

That sentence is wedged quite lightly on the first page of text in the book. Let’s begin there with things I didn’t know about the ocean. That pretty much sums up the essence of this book: things Caryn didn’t know about the ocean. Granted, there may be a few notes here and there that I might possibly be able to say I’d heard before. But for the most part, this wondrous book just amazed me on the first look and continues to capture my attention and wow me every time I open it.

The back of the book describes it as an “exquisitely illustrated miscellany.” This book is a mixture of marine facts and a lovely dose of questions, opinions, and clever activities to try while you peruse it. It begins by merely describing the one global ocean and the relationships between the major oceans and seas. It then moves to fascinating information about ships, stars, navigation, knots, “Seaspeak,” fish, marine life, superstitions, lighthouses, and so much more! Whew! This book is intense and positively extraordinary. 

Why I picked it

Fifty pages of fascinating facts beautifully laid out in text and illustrations, that’s why I love it. I never would have said that I really care much about ocean facts, but reading a book like this makes me fascinated! Just trying to skim it again to refresh my memory for this review, I found myself totally rereading every page and delighting in the craziest of details.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it covers a real topic, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Almost every page has a little sidenote, activity or suggestion that take a piece of information from the page and make it personal. Things like encouraging readers to go eat an orange to admire the way the peeled segments resemble meridians… and also prevent scurvy. Or directions to make a perfect paper boat and an experiment to test magnetic field. And my favorite that I am super tempted to try: a recipe for Caldeirada or Portuguese fish stew. The additional tidbits are excellent, often making me laugh, connect me to the information more deeply, and reinforce how not dry this information and book is written.

Who will love this?

This book definitely attracts an older audience. The two color style and presentation of information are very sophisticated indicating a more mature target. I’d guess about age 6 for a good starting range, but it also depends on reading level and interest of the kid. Adults should freak over this book! It’s stunning inside and out with the beautiful cloth spine and powerhouse case-wrap (no dust jacket!) which make it excellent for display and durable for many reads. The information ranges from informative to just plain cool to “I have to try that now!”

Bonus Gift Pairings

First complimentary gift that came to mind with this is Moby Dick, not the unabridged, adult read; but the fantastically clever board book version. I don’t care how old a person is, the concept behind that series of BabyLit books is brilliant and a perfect companion to this book. I’d also love to see this paired with knot practicing rope, a notebook to be a captain’s log, and perhaps an orange to try that experiment! The gift pairings are seemingly unlimited, much like the ocean itself.

See you tomorrow for the next book from this year in my 25 Days of Favorite New Picture Books countdown!