Review Blog

Sep 18 2020

Mama Ocean by Jane Jolly

cover image

Illus. by Sally Heinrich. Midnight Sun Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781925227659.
(Ages: 4-9) Highly recommended. Beautifully textured and flowing illustrations by Sally Heinrich breath life into this whimsical tale that carries a crucially important environmental message. As with 2017's Papa Sky this story feels almost like an ancient legend, both due to the grandeur of its illustrations and the sweeping simplicity of its language. Mama Ocean is depicted as a wise, elderly mermaid with long, flowing locks and a dedicated following of ocean creatures. She rises supremely out of the waves; 'My children . . . Gather near. And so they came'. But there is no happiness on her weary face. She is distressed. In an effort to cheer her the sea creatures bring her gifts that they find swirling around the ocean currents: bottle tops, buckets and toothbrushes. 'But Mama Ocean was sick. She was becoming bleached and frail. Her eyes were dulling and her spirit was breaking'. As she is slowly becoming smothered with these items the emerald water starts to grow murky and dark. Before long the animals are also being strangled by these foreign materials. The fish have cans stuck on their noses, the turtles have plastic can holders tangled around their middles, the seals have ropes twisted around their bodies and the seabed is littered with plastic cups, corks and old shoes. Finally they see, 'Oh Mama! This finery is fake. We must send it back from whence it came'. And so they throw back the gifts and the ocean carries them away and dumps them back onto the solid ground. Mama Ocean rises again: 'We need no gifts', she says.
There is a fantastic page without any text that shows a gigantic pile of waste on the edge of the ocean, that will provide a fantastic starting point for conversations about waste and how to solve the problem, not just of ocean litter but also litter in general. Descriptive and rich language choices make for an emotive and evocative read and the breathtaking illustrations are filled with details that will help the reader connect their own lifestyle with the devastation taking place in our oceans. The line 'we need no gifts' is also worth exploring with children. Children will no doubt feel empowered in their own ability to create change through some simple changes to their everyday practices. Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Oceans, Littering.
Nicole Nelson

BUY IT ON booktopia
Archived Blog Entries