Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Shimmer and Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life

Shimmer and Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life

Jim Arnosky
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Sterling, 2013   ISBN: 978-1402786235

Jim Arnosky is a highly acclaimed illustrator and naturalist whose books have delighted children and adults alike for years. Arnosky’s love of the natural world has taken him to many extraordinary environments where he has studied, watched, sketched and painted all manner of plants and animals. In addition to terrestrial places, Arnosky and his wife have visited many coastline and offshore habitats so that they could get to know marine environments where fish and their neighbors live. “From jetties and shores and fishing boats,” Arnosky and his wife, Deanna, have got to know a wide variety of marine creatures. Arnosky has filled numerous wildlife journals with sketches and notes, which he has used to create the wonderful articles in this book.

Arnosky begins with an article about stingrays. He was walking in the shallows one day when he noticed that there was a “dark spot on the otherwise bright sandy bottom.” When he approached the dark place in the sand, a sting ray rose out of its hiding place and swam away. Arnosky goes on to tell us that sting rays are cartilaginous fish, relatives of sharks. They have pectoral fins that are enlarged so that the fins look, and move, rather like wings. Rays come in a range of colors and sizes, and Arnosky has seen a very large species, the spotted eagle ray, which has a wingspan of up to ten feet. You may think that you would have to go far out into the water to see such a splendid animal, but Arnosky has seen them in less than three feet of water.

Rays are not the only predacious animals that swim close to the shore. Barracudas, bonefish, tarpon, and Atlantic needlefish all come to hunt in the sunlit waters that we can wade in.

Further out from the shore, Arnosky has seen dolphins. One day he was out in his boat with his wife when a pod of bottlenose dolphins showed up and began to follow them. Dolphins are highly intelligent mammals that humans often view as being “friendly, peaceful, and non-aggressive.” Though they are these things to humans, to fish dolphins are “dangerous ocean predators.” Further offshore other dolphin species can be found. The largest of their kind is the orca, or killer whale. These animals where given this name because they sometimes will attack small whales, and not because they are a kind of whale.

Arnosky goes on to tell us about jellyfish, sailfish (and other deep-sea hunters), coral reefs, fiddler crabs, and sharks. He also writes about why the ocean is “A Good place to be,” and why marine environments are “Waters of wonder.”

This wonderful book, with its gorgeous artwork and thoughtful articles, would make a wonderful gift for a reader who loves the ocean and its creatures. Fold out pages give readers the opportunity to see some of animals that are life-sized.

At the back of the book Arnosky tells us a little more about what it was like to create this book and why this title is “one of our favorite books.”