Coral Reefs

Book Reviews

Chin, Jason Coral Reefs; written and illus. by Jason Chin. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2011 [40p]
ISBN 978-1-59643-563-6 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 2-4

Information and fantasy collaborate in this imaginative introduction to coral reefs. Here readers can get “just the facts” on the structure, life cycle, and marine denizens of reefs, with the expected data on the polyps that build them and the forces (natural and man-made) that imperil them. As the well-organized text proceeds, however, the accompanying illustrations take readers on a little girl’s wild journey from the reading room at the New York Public Library (its ornate ceiling cleverly transformed into marine motifs), where she pulls Chin’s book from the shelf. As she strolls the aisles perusing the picture book, coral formations build in her wake, water presses out the library windows, and she’s underwater at a reef that has taken over the city streets. Just another reader figuratively “immersed” in her book? Maybe not, since she emerges from the library dripping wet, with shards of coral in puddles on the steps, and a band of intrigued kids anxious to share her book—and, no doubt, her fabulous experience. Some adults may fear that the illustrated story is sufficiently distracting to endanger the delivery of information, but it’s more probable that kids will just revisit the material until they’ve wrung what they need from pictures and text. Additional notes and a short bibliography are included, and endpaper sketches identify many of the fish and coral presented throughout the book.  EB

Coral Reefs.
Chin, Jason (author).  Illustrated by Jason Chin.
Oct. 2011. 32p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, hardcover, $16.99 (9781596435636). K-Grade 3. 577.7.

REVIEW.  First published August, 2011 (Booklist).

Similar in format and concept to Redwoods (2009), Chin’s latest book offers a straightforward text discussing coral reefs, while the well-composed illustrations create an imaginative narrative running in parallel. A girl takes a book on coral reefs from the library shelves. As she reads, corals appear on the tables, water pours in through a window, and the room gradually transforms into a coral-reef ecosystem. Magically, book in hand, the girl swims underwater and observes sea creatures interacting with one another. Further information on reefs, corals, and Chin’s research is appended. The attractive endpapers feature precise, shaded pencil drawings of individual sea creatures living in Caribbean reefs. Although the watercolor illustrations are engaging, the text takes on an enormous subject and may leave children puzzled at times. For example, polyps, corals, and algae, all introduced in the first two pages, need more explanation in the text, and the appended cross-sectional drawings would be more helpful at the beginning. Still, the book offers children a visually beguiling introduction to an important ecosystem. — Carolyn Phelan

Horn Book Magazine:
Coral Reefs
by Jason Chin; illus. by the author
Primary Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook 40 pp.
10/11 978-1-59643-563-6 $16.99 g

The author of Redwoods (rev. 5/09) applies his creative integration of nonfiction text and fantastical illustrations to a biome modeled on the tropical marine corals off the coast of Belize. Chin’s text is a straightforward description of corals, their growth into reefs, the food webs that exist in these ecosystems, and a survey of some of the more interesting inhabitants. The illustrations, however, tell a story built around the text, in which a young girl in the New York Public Library pulls out this very book, starts reading, and embarks on an adventure where the contents come to life. As she reads about coral reef formation, polyps grow up around her, water pours into the library, and she floats out into the reef and among the sharks, fish, and turtles that live there. Chin’s detailed illustrations capture the dappled light of shallow water and the bright tropical colors and patterns in the featured flora and fauna. Things return to normal as the girl, dripping a bit, reaches the end of the book and passes it on to others. Readers shouldn’t skip the information at the back, which explains the serious problem of coral bleaching due to global warming. DANIELLE J. FORD

Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine [or Guide, as applicable] by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,

School Library Journal:
CHIN, Jason. Coral Reefs. illus. by author. unpaged. diag. bibliog. CIP. Roaring Brook/A Neal Porter Bk. Oct. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-563-6. LC 2010045189.

K-Gr 3–Using a fantasy framework similar to that in  Redwoods (Roaring Brook, 2009), Chin offers a colorful and inventive introduction to coral reefs. A young girl pulls a replica of this very book off the shelves in the magnificent reading room of the New York Public Library. As she becomes absorbed in it, coral starts to sprout around her and the photo realistic illustrations begin to transform into the watery world of the reef. With book still in hand, the girl observer floats through this fantastic world, which is skillfully illustrated with vivid, arresting views of the fragile habitat. Through the use of panels and changing perspectives, Chin maximizes the drama of reef life while the straightforward text packs in basic information including the structure of a reef and the concept of a food chain. Some points need further clarification and two pages of informative back matter help, offering technical diagrams describing the relationship between the algae and the corals, as well as concerns about the future of coral reefs. While not drawn to scale, the charming sketchbook- style endpapers depict an array of sea animals and corals. As her imaginative adventure ends and the smiling and slightly soggy girl slowly returns to the real world, in a satisfying final scene, she is seen sharing the book with other children on the library steps.–Caroline Ward, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT


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