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Get to Know Your Oceans

Lee Littlewood on

As more and more people become aware of oceans' important animals and habitats, more people take action to be kind to them. These new books for children reassure them sharks aren't evil; dolphins are born tail first; and a certain cute pink octopus can turn into a pancake.

"Hello, My Name Is ... How Adorabilis Got His Name" by Marisa Polansky; illustrated by Joey Chou; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 28 pages; $17.99.

Adorabilis, a type of flapjack octopus, was discovered in 2015. Pink with small ears, wide-set eyes and small tentacles, this octopus was named because it sometimes flattens itself like a pancake. When Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers discovered this cute peachy animal, someone joked that "Adorabilis" would be an appropriate name. And so it stuck!

Marisa Polansky's incredibly sweet picture book introduces an ocean full of friendly creatures, from the anglerfish, to the yeti crab, to the fangtooth, to the moon jellyfish, that all explain their name origins. (The jellyfish says her name comes from her ability to glow bright white like the moon). But as the round-eyed octopus swims about, he is frustrated and then explores his talents, from excellent parachuting to being "the best steerer" in his old neighborhood. Finally, a researcher shouts out "Adorabilis" and our little swimmer is satisfied.

With refreshing tints of light blues and pastel pinks, Joey Chou's retro, rounded illustrations are too cute. "Hello, My Name Is ..." fits the Adorabilis name perfectly.

"Squidtoons: Exploring Ocean Science With Comics" by Garfield Kwan and Dana Song; Andrews McMeel Publishing; 128 pages; $9.99.

Turquoise-soaked "Squidtoons" is a comic-style easy-to-read, quirky and funny book that will hook reluctant readers drawn to graphic tales. With a strong environmental message and a goal of dispelling kids' ocean fears, the paperback book, created by San Diego ocean lovers, introduces whale vomit, bone-eating worms, narwhals and sea dragons. Its' section on sharks humorously points out that deer and hippos kill many more people, and that sharks would much rather eat seals, plankton, fish and crabs.

With a simple two-page subject matter, Kwan and Song make learning about the anatomy of the coral polyp and muffling aquarium ambiance for breeding sea dragons incredibly fun and brief. "Squidtoons" is perfect for road trips and beaches.

"Science Comics: Sharks" by Joe Flood is also a toteable graphic book that promotes the importance of sharks and is filled to the gills with fascinating facts about all of them.

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"The Ultimate Book of Sharks" from Brian Skerry and National Geographic Kids is the perfect huge photo-filled reference guide to all things shark. Photographer Skerry knows his stuff, has no fear and adds his own personal insight about the "fintastic ten, shark superlatives, nature's nurseries, weird facts and serious stats."

"The Truth About Dolphins: Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals" by Maxwell Eaton III; Roaring Brook Press; 32 pages; $15.99.

This picture book stars a bevy of witty dolphins explaining how they breathe air through blowholes, are mammals like humans and come in all sizes and shapes, like the Atlantic spotted dolphin, the small tucuxi dolphin and even the orca. Besides the clear facts, there is a lot of action taking place, from a squid escaping a pod of dolphins, to a duck explaining they don't really speak English even though they're great communicators. When a pair of dolphin friends recognizes their friend Gary through echolocation, the Pacific white-sided dolphin exclaims, "He still owes me three squid."

Quirky, educational, friendly and fun, "The Truth About Dolphins" does have seriously funny facts.

"Ocean: A Visual Miscellany" by Ricardo Henriques and Andre Letria; Chronicle Books; 48 pages; $18.99.

Gorgeously colored and illustrated in a primitive watery blue and black palette, this coffee table-worthy artsy tome offers a different aspect of ocean life on every oversized page. From little men with flags demonstrating the International Code of Signals, to how to tie a sailor knot, to superstitions about mermaids, the kraken and Neptune, "Ocean" is an exquisitely drawn miscellany of marine facts big and small, which won an award at the Bologna Book Fair.


To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



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