Saturday, December 19, 2009

REVIEW: Down Down Down

Jenkins, S.  (2009).  Down Down Down:  A journey to the bottom of the sea.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.


Appetizer:  Down Down Down shares information on a number of sea creatures that live in the deep down down downs.  To share information about the animals, the picturebook begins at the surface and dives down into the western Pacific Ocean from there, into the dark, darker and darkest deep.

This is one of those books I wish had been around when I was a kid.  Paging through this book and staring at all of the paper-cut illustrations would have taken me at least an hour.  And after I would have finished reading, I would have felt even more fascinated with oceans than I already was. I probably also would have refused to swim in an ocean, lake, swimming pool or bathtub for at least a month for fear one of the beasties had somehow found their way into the Michigan water-works.  Unlikely?  Yes.  But to my eighty-year-old brain, a likely eventuality.  Now, as an adult I'll only avoid my bathtub and sinks for a few hours.  Tops.

On an unrelated note, I am now afraid of comb jelly, oarfish and vampire squid.  Not because they pose any immediate threat to me.  But because I can be.  So there.  What beasties are you afraid of?

I liked the bright (and eventually darkly colored) illustrations, which were made of cut and torn paper.  As I read Down Down Down, I was strongly reminded of Never Stare at a Monkey, which is also an information book about many different types of animals.  It was about then that I figured out they were by the same author, Steve Jenkins.  Although, Down Down Down does include more text throughout than Never Stare at a Monkey  and is intended for a slightly older audience.  (Although both books include thorough appendices about all of the animals described)

As I was going through the book, however, I did wish that Jenkins had included notes about the size of all the animals included (some of this information was mentioned in the appendix).  At first, seeing some of the creatures side-by-side in the dark zone and lower zones made me assume that the cut-paper images were true to scale (I don't know why, a shark is featured on one of the first pages.  It was clearly, not shown to scale).  And size has a direct influence on how much some of these beasties will freak me out, so I wanted that information right away.

Exercises to Go with the Meal:

This is a good book to put in a student's hand when they have to write a report on an interesting topic or on something related to the ocean.  An elementary student could pick an animal to research further.  Students could also make food webs based on the information in this picturebook.

This book could also provoke a lesson on systems of measurement (both distance and temperature), since each page tracks the narrative's descent down down down all 35,838 feet (10,923 meters) to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Dinner Conversation:

"We have explored only a small fraction of the oceans.  In fact, more humans have walked on the moon than have visited the deepest spot in the sea."

"Here, just above the surface of the western Pacific Ocean, the air is warm.  Below us gentle swells move across the water.  It's calm now, but during a storm powerful winds can churn the surface into mountainous waves."

"At a depth of just 33 feet (10 meters), the sunlight is already beginning to fade.  The pressure is increasing."

"From here on down, there is not enough light for plants to survive--only animals live below this depth."

"Because the ocean is so large and so many animals live here, bioluminescence is the most common form of animal communication on earth."

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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