A First Book of the Sea

This sumptuous picturebook from this award-winning duo is a beautiful object, and would make a lovely gift to take on holidays or even to curl up with as the days get shorter and colder.

Together with Davies’ A First Book of Nature and A First Book of Animals this title marks a new direction in non-fiction writing for young children which blurs the lines between poetry and prose with the subject keenly observed and precisely described in beautifully crafted writing.

The book starts ‘Down by the Shore’ with the sea of seaside holidays, paddling, sandcastles, rock pools, even surfing and a family outing to a traditional pier. Next Davies explores ‘Journeys’. Some are voyages of huge distances such as those whales make, some as small as the journey a limpet makes from high to low tide and back. In the other sections, ‘Under the Sea’ and ‘Wonders’, this zoologist poet gives insight into fascinating science, ecological and human concerns in language that will engage and delight the child audience. The poems are simple, with some jaunty rhymes such as the great rhythmical ‘Sea Shanty’ and ‘Sailor’s Jig’ in the ‘Journeys’ section, but they are largely written in free verse in which Davies delivers thoughts both lyrical and pithy in the poised voice of a narrator that is sometimes that of a knowledgeable and kindly scientist and sometimes childlike. For example the voice in ‘Pebbles’, a poem about playing shop on the beach, is that of a child. Yet even here the poem moves subtly into ‘scientific’ contemplation of how the pebbles came to be.

Sutton’s illustrations make the most of the space on the page to give excitement through changes in pace and perspective in a gentle palette with an attractive line which is stylised yet ‘correct’. The whole is utterly delicious.