Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Spectacular Selection of Sea Critters: Concrete Poems

A Spectacular Selection of Sea Critters: Concrete Poems

Betsy Franco
Illustrator:  Michael Wertz 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Lerner, 2015   ISBN: 978-1467721523

Many people love spending time at the seaside, paddling in the waves, and exploring ocean worlds. They are fascinated by the creatures that live underwater; the fish, turtles, jellyfish, stingrays, eels and other animals.

In this delightful book Betsy Franco’s clever concrete poems are paired with wonderful artwork to give readers a memorable journey into the world of sun, sea, sand, and “sea critters.” The words on the pages are arranged to create shapes and patterns that reflect what is being said in the poems, and these arrangements of words perfectly complement the illustrations to give readers a singular reading experience.

We begin with a piece of poetry called Sun Mail. The warmth of the sun is sending us an invitation to go “Snorkling today!” and when we dip our heads beneath the ways we see schools of fish where all the fish move in perfect unison to the right, the left, up and down. The fish “shift together in a flash” and as one “they swim together to survive.”

In the water we encounter box jellyfish, “fascinating” creatures that move around by “undulating” and “pulsating.” We see a sea turtle “row by” with “flippered wings,” and a king angelfish, which is territorial about her space. Among the coral, butterfly fish spend their days “floating, flitting, flickering, fluctuating feeding.” The peaceful harmony of their world is rudely interrupted when they have to flee from a hungry eel.

Puffer fish, cleaner fish, needlefish, sea horses, Moorish idols, trumpet fish and others cover the pages of this special book. There are poems in rhyming verse, blank verse, a haiku, an acrostic poem, a tercet, a limerick, a riddle and more. Throughout the book Betsy Franco dazzles us with her remarkable word pictures and delights us with her creativity.