Saturday, July 19, 2014

Between the Ocean and the Air: Breathe by Scott Magoon


Baby mammals are the ones who play, who must play to learn, and the ones who show such obvious joy in doing so.

A little beluga whale sets out for a day of adventure, his mother reminding him that he has to remember to come up and breathe, breathe, breathe. He spouts a little plume of vapor, gulps a deep breath, and dives down to see what he can see in the clear, cold, blue-green Arctic waters. He swims through colorful schools of fish and graceful strands of kelp swaying in the current. He swims past a gray and ghostly wreck of a whaler, its masts still standing as it rests on the sea floor. He watches puffins, with their bright orange bills and sleek black bodies diving past him into the blue-black deeps and coming back up toward the sky.

He rises to take a breath in a cove where small icebergs and a broken ice field share the icy waters, and sees the silhouette of a polar bear looking down at him through the ice and swims away, away, away toward another breathing hole where it is safe to come up for a breath. And then, as young ones do, he looks around for his mother, watching nearby, and joins her for a snack and a bit of a sleep, floating where air and water meet, under the wide and starry sky.

Scott Magoon uses the familiar story strain of the little one discovering his world in his first adventure out on his own, but his lyrical illustrations of the watery, icy world of a little whale are a lovely setting for this story. Magoon's just-published Breathe (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster Books, 2014) makes great use of several forms of artistic media, even digital, to show the beauty of the Arctic waters and those who live there. Kirkus Reviews give this one a starred review, adding "The simple adventure concludes with an anthropomorphic yet welcome invitation: "Most of all, love/and be loved." Richly composed and sweetly appealing—just right for toddler storytimes as well as one-to-one sharing."



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