CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 11. . . .November 13, 2009
The Octonauts & the Great Ghost Reef.
Meomi. Vicki Wong & Michael Murphy.
San Francisco, CA: Immedium, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $12.95 (U.S.).
Coral reefs and islands-Fiction.
Coral reef ecology-Fiction.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Myra Junyk.
Reviewed from f&g's.
The crew quickly assembled in the Octopod's headquarters to find Professor Inkling frantically pointing to the eerie landscape outside.
"Octonauts!" the small Dumbo octopus exclaimed.
"We're all excited about our vacation to the Great Reef City, but something peculiar has transpired."
"Well, shiver me timbers – everything is white," Kwazii puzzled out loud. "This place looks like a ghost town!"
"This city is built on top of a giant coral reef. Normally reefs look like colorful rocks where many plants and animals make their homes," Dr. Shellington informed the crew. "This is not at all what I expected!"
"We need to find out what happened here," Captain Barnacles decided."
Meomi, the design team of Vicki Wong from Vancouver, BC, and Michael Murphy from Los Angeles, CA, has created their fourth book about the troop of eight characters called the Octonauts. Their three previous books dealt with issues such as friendship, the environment and individuality. This time, the crew (a brainy octopus, a brave polar bear, a daredevil kitten, a scientific sea otter, an adorable penguin, a paddling dog, a glow-in-the dark bunny and a vegimal) try to solve the mystery of the Great Ghost Reef.
The Octonauts scheduled a vacation in the Great Reef City. However, when they arrive, they find a ghost town. What happened? The streets are silent, the buildings are abandoned, and the houses are empty. Dr. Shellington is convinced that there must be some "perfectly good scientific explanation for all this!" They encounter Mr. Slowstache, an old turtle. He explains that the reef slowly grew into a busy city with fancy buildings. While this was happening, no one noticed that the reef on which the city was built was slowly turning white and brittle. Eventually, the buildings started collapsing. The Octonauts explore the reef to find a solution to the problem. They discover that the coral reef is very much alive. In order to survive, it has to breathe. Once again, the Octonauts save the day and teach readers a lesson about pollution and sustainability.
The fourth book in "The Octonauts" series is full of interesting and colourful illustrations. Each of the Octonauts has a unique visual personality. Young children will relate to these amusing adventure-seeking characters. The Octonauts also teach readers about working hard to accomplish a goal, appreciating one's friends, and preserving the environment. The book asks the question: Are we taking our environment for granted? Although the book appeals primarily to young children, it has a wry sense of humour which will also appeal to adult readers.
The illustrator is not afraid to be adventurous. There is always a lot going on in the illustrations which adds visual appeal for the readers. Readers perceive a great deal of this story through the illustrations and not just through the words of the story. As the Octonauts engage in various activities to help solve the mystery of the Great Ghost Reef, the colours of the illustrations change to reflect their activities. More serious activities, such as exploring the ghost town, are reflected by deeper colours of purple and grey. However, light-hearted activities, like exploring the beach, the mangrove forest or the seagrass meadows, are portrayed in brighter colours of green and blue. When the group reaches the ghost city, the reader is forced to turn the book sideways. This alerts readers to a critical incident in the story. All in all, the book engages readers through its charming visual appeal!
Although this fourth book in the series follows the successful Octonauts formula a bit too closely, it still manages to tell an interesting story which teaches readers a valuable lesson about caring for the environment. The fact that Meomi are the designers of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic mascots will make this book appealing to readers anticipating Canada's involvement in the Olympics. Also, the Octonauts group of characters has been turned into an animated TV series which is scheduled for international airing in 2010 in England, France and Australia. This book could be used as a read-aloud for children at home and with students in primary classrooms. Meomi's story will inspire discussion about issues as far ranging as: underwater creatures, coral reefs, pollution, aquatic environments and sustainability.
Myra Junyk, who lives in Toronto, OB, is a literacy advocate and author.
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