Life in the Ocean

Title: Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

Author & Illustrator: Claire A. Nivola (interview from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)

Publisher: Frances Foster Book, 2012
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6 and up
Themes: Marine Biology, Women Explorers

Synopsis (from MacMillan website):

Sylvia Earle first lost her heart to the ocean as a young girl when she discovered the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico in her backyard. As an adult, she dives even deeper. Whether she’s designing submersibles, swimming with the whales, or taking deep-water walks, Sylvia Earle has dedicated her life to learning more about what she calls “the blue heart of the planet.” With stunningly detailed pictures of the wonders of the sea, Life in the Ocean tells the story of Sylvia’s growing passion and how her ocean exploration and advocacy have made her known around the world. This picture book biography also includes an informative author’s note that will motivate young environmentalists.


More on Sylvia Earle:

  • National Geographic Kids has an informative, easy-to-read interview for kids.
  • Biography summarizing her studies and research.


  • Curriculum for teaching the Deep Sea to various grade levels.
  • Deep Sea “I Spy” poster activity.

Craft: Create glow in the dark lanternfish sticks.

Videos and Photos:

Field Trip: Visit your local aquarium. I am lucky to be living next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is just fabulous. A must visit for anyone traveling to the San Francisco Bay area.

Why I Like this Book:

There are plenty of books on oceanography and explorers, but this book stole my heart with its soft-hued, detailed illustrations and easy-to-understand, inspiring text. Nivola documents Sylvia’s early childhood from growing up on the Gulf Coast, where Sylvia fell in love with the water, to the historic walk along the ocean floor. This book will make you fall in love with the ocean and its beautiful creatures, and inspire kids to follow their passions.

I love Nivola’s use of language. She just doesn’t tell the reader that Nivola grew up on a farm but makes you feel like you were really there, taking in the sights and smells. Poetic.

living creatures in every inch of the nearby woods- in the farm’s pond, in its creek … Countless butterflies visited the flowers of the garden, and the fragrance of the lilac bushes

Nivola is able to explain scenes in a way that kids can understand and even find riveting. Here she writes about a humpback whale.

[whale] swam straight at her, like a freight train bearing down on a mouse. Moments before the collision

I found it fascinating the way Nivola was able to incorporate phrases, that were quotations, into the text. Sometimes it seemed as if the quote may have been the inspiration for the paragraph and accompanying illustration.

I encourage you to check out the gorgeous illustrations from this book on the MacMillan website.

Julie from “Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast” said she would hand this book to an aspiring picture-book author and say “this is how a picture book biography is done.” I fully agree.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.


28 Comments to “Life in the Ocean”

  1. What a beautiful choice for PPBF! The illustrations are magical and I love books that help young children learn about the environment…the oceans are still a mystery to us.

    Your resource list is fantastic…thank you so much for putting together a great post!

  2. This book sounds really good, Darshana! I want to read it right away! I love the poetry of the language as you described it. I love any book that empowers girls. And how wonderful to learn about the ocean. Also great to know it’s a good example for writers to study of how to write a PB biography!

  3. This sounds like a great book! I like non-fiction PB and I agree with you about the illustrations!

  4. A fantastic choice this week! Your activities are excellent and your review is beautiful. I can’t wait to check this book out.

  5. Ooh the detail itself sounds wonderful and I bet the illos are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a fabulous choice…. the imagery, language and topic sound enchanting. This would be a greta addition to a school library.

  7. Wow, what an amazing book. And you’ve amassed such a list of resources. I am crossing my fingers that our library has this one. I’m off to look (as an aspiring nonfiction author).

  8. Glad you are all enjoying the reviews. I don’t read many PB biographies but this one just hooked me, I found it inspirational which is exactly what young kids need.

  9. I love picture book portraits of great people. Thank you for sharing, I hadn’t read this one. But I’m totally interested!

  10. This is the second picture book biography book today for PPBF that I have seen! I think my daughter would love this one too! Thank so much!

  11. A beautiful choice for picture books. This beautiful biography about Sylvia Earle sounds amazing for the many reasons your listed. I love a really well-written book that may inspire future enviornmentalists. This is great find and I’m glad you shared it with us. Liked your activities too. Thanks!

  12. This book is gorgeous, and I want it! We recently watched Disney’s Oceans with the kids and while some of them found it scary (confrontations between ocean wildlife!), my daughter was fascinated and wants to watch it again and again. I think she would love this one. Thanks, Darshana!

  13. Marine biology and women explorers — these topics appeal to the fifth grade me and hopefully will entertain my son today.

  14. Beautiful! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Best of luck winning NEVERSINK!

  15. What a wonderful-sounding book, Darshana! Incredible illustrations, and so good to learn of a woman oceanographer. And what a wealth of activities! Thank you.

  16. Hi there, I was just thinking that this would also be a valuable contribution to Nonfiction Monday. I am on the lookout for strong female figures in books as part of our Girl Power theme and I am thinking that it would fit our theme perfectly. Thank you for sharing this. Really looks great.

  17. I have come across this book before. It’s beautiful, a great illustrations and wonderful for kids learning what lies in the bottom of our oceans.

  18. The language in the sample lines is beautiful as well as the cover. You did a great job with the resources your posted.

  19. I’m here from the Kid Lit Blog Hop. I enjoyed your review and would really like to read this book because of what you wrote. This is what a good review should do; either get me to want the book or give me substantiated reasons why I should avoid it. Very nice job. I am following you.

    • Thanks. I am so glad you enjoyed the review. Thank you for the compliment. I hope I can live up to your standards. 🙂 You have an impressive site, will have to spend some time surfing it.

  20. As someone who has snorkelled in oceans a few times, I have come to enjoy the beautiful scenery beneath the waves. Those who have a fear of the unknown should be encouraged to look below the water and see all the pretty sights. When I see the illustrations for this picture book, I am reminded of those snorkelling adventures I have had. If this book can convince people that oceans are captivating, that is enough for me.

  21. What an inspiring story! I love any portrayal of women in unusual occupations. We also have an aquarium nearby. I used to go about once every month when the kids were little – we just love it there! Thanks for linking in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! 🙂

  22. I grew up in the backyard of the Monterey Bay Aquarium! I remember the excitement when it first opened. It’s a wonderful place. This book looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing at The Children’s Bookshelf.

  23. What a wonderful book about a very fascinating lady. I must try to find a copy!
    I am hosting a new weekly nonfiction link party and it would be great if you could share this post 🙂

  24. Thanks for stopping by. I linked this post up on your site.

  25. Great review. I really love this book too. You did such a great job of describing why it is a fabulous book!

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