CM Magazine: The Brilliant Deep.
________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 36. . . .May 18, 2018


The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs: The Story of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation.

Kate Messner. Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe.
San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2018.
48 pp., hardcover, $24.99.
ISBN 978-1-4521-3350-8.

Subject Headings:
Coral reef conservation-Juvenile literature.
Nedimyer, Ken-Juvenile literature.
Coral Restoration Foundation-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4



Ken’s favorite place was always out on the reef...until things began to change.

One summer, hotter than the rest, Ken noticed the corals were losing their color, and there weren’t as many fish.

The sea urchins had started to die. They are the gardeners of the reef, tiny groundskeepers who control the algae. But Ken didn’t know that at the time.

Even scientists didn’t understand what an important role the sea urchins played until they were gone.

Ken watched his favorite place in the world begin to fade away.

The reefs were dying, and it seemed like there was nothing he could do to save them.


Out of sight of many of us, the marine life of the world’s oceans is under attack from environmental changes. Discoveries of coral reefs bleached of color—dying—have aroused alarm. As the reefs go, so goes the habitat of a multitude of undersea life. The Brilliant Deep brings that story to the youngest readers through the picture book biography of Ken Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation, and his experiments to try and save coral colonies in the Florida Keys.

      Passionately interested in sea life as a child, Ken spent countless hours diving and observing. His adult career choice, operating a live rock farm (rocks covered in lifeforms such as algae, used to maintain water quality in saltwater aquariums), led to the discovery of staghorn corals growing on his rocks. The idea arose to cultivate them and transplant them to dying reefs. His success is measured by the survival of “tens of thousands of coral colonies on reefs in the Florida Keys” and the spread of his knowledge to other countries.

      The Brilliant Deep is illustrated in double spread collage-style drawings done in muted, watery tones showing the step-by-step life cycle of coral embryos, and Ken’s progress from curious youngster to a science vocation. One stark wordless illustration in cool greens, white and black is especially arresting – a lone scuba diver shining a torch on an expanse of bleached coral. It’s the dramatic turning point in the story beyond which Ken’s idea for reviving the coral begins to grow.

      A brief note in the back matter explains why reefs are endangered and what might be done to save them. It is followed by a plea for donations to the Coral Restoration Foundation, one way kids can help with the project. Websites are listed for further information, and a few terms of coral reef vocabulary are defined.

      With so much negative news about ocean problems, the good news story of The Brilliant Deep will captivate young readers. Encouraged to recognize the power of curiosity, observation, the courage to experiment and the belief that anything is possible, youngsters can imagine their own role in the science world, and feel optimism for a better future.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

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