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Back to Young Hoosiers 2008-2009 Nominees: Picture Books (K-3)

Over in the Ocean
  In a Coral Reef

By Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jeanette Canyon

Publisher: Dawn Publications
ISBN-10: 1584690631
ISBN (13 digit)/EAN:
Retail Price: $16.95
Our Net Price: $11.05
(35% discount)

Publisher: Dawn Publications
ISBN-10: 1584690623
ISBN (13 digit)/EAN:
Retail Price: $8.95
Our Net Price: $5.85
(35% discount)

Subjects / Categories:
Animal Families
Marine/Coral Reef
Clay Art


Published July 2004
Size: 10.1 x 9.1 inches
36 Pages
Ages 2-7


  • Winner of the 2005 Publisher's Marketing Association Benjamin Franklin Silver Award - Interior Design
  • Winner of the 2006 Learning Magazine Teacher's Choice Award for Best Children's Book
  • Winner of the National Association for Parenting Publications 2005 Gold Award
  • Winner of the Florida Reading Association 2006-2007 Honor Book Award
  • Best Childrens Books of the Year for 2005 selection Bank Street College of Education - Children's Book Committee
  • Winner of the 2005 Marion Vannett Ridgway Memorial Honor Book Award
  • 2006-2007 Florida Reading Association Children's Book Award Nominee
  • 2005 State of Maine Chickadee Award Nominee
  • Winner of the 2005 State of Delaware Blue Hen Book Award

Front Inside Cover:

The coral reef in this book is like a marine nursery, teeming with mammals and babies! In the age-old way of kids and fish, children will count and clap to the rhythm of "Over in the Meadow" while pufferfish "puff," gruntfish "grunt" and seahorses "flutter." The colorful art is fresh and fun - constructed entirely from polymer clay - and invites young fingers to fashion fishy forms.


Eye-popping artwork is the star of the show in Berkes's lively, oceanic counting book, based on the classic children's song "Over in the Meadow." In Berkes's version, creatures from the coral reef replace terrestrial fauna. She introduces a different animal in each full-bleed spread, but instead of bluebirds and muskrats, she highlights octopuses, pufferfish, and seahorses. Canyon uses polymer clay to create arresting visuals. In one spread, a sea anemone, its hot pink base crowned with rosy-tipped, lime-green tendrils, bursts from the page while mother clownfish darts after a trio of young ones. Their textured scales and vivid patterns stand out against a swirling blue background of coiled clay and small, bubble-like spheres. Young children will enjoy counting the offspring. Backmatter includes music and lyrics, further information about each animal, and an artists' note explaining how the illustrations were created. - Kirkus Review (September 2004)

The gorgeous illustrations in this book deserve top billing. Polymer clay in vibrant colors was sculpted, sliced, pressed, and plied by the artist, then photographed to create the two-dimensional relief art of marine life. Each folio reveals a different species of swimmer, ten in all, against sea-inspired polymer backdrops that include swirls of aqua waves, orange and purple coral gnarls, and ribbons of sea grass in stunning chartreuse. Quite satisfactorily, the artist explains her process at the back of the book and gives parents and teachers tips on helping children create with polymer clay. Only after perusal of the art has been satisfied (and I would wager child or adult will study it many times) will one settle down to enjoy reading the book. Set to the rhythm and tune of "Over in the Meadow," the text opens with mother octopus and her baby one, mother parrotfish and her parrotfish two, and so on, until the tenth species and her ten babies are introduced in counting book fashion. . . . The back of the book also provides music and lyrics, facts about coral life and reef animals, and finger play suggestions for teachers and parents. - Children's Literature (November 2004)

It takes remarkable art to portray the amazing colors and shapes of a coral reef - and this new children's book accomplishes this with a unique art media. Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef uses polymer clay to bring picture books for children to a compelling new dimension. Illustrations are practically tactile, and are actually photographs of reliefs shaped and sculpted from clay. Author Marianne Berkes adapts the whimsical classic song of "Over in the Meadow" to bring both a counting element and a musical element to the coral reef habitat. The coral reef is teeming with pufferfish that "puff," gruntfish that "grunt," and seahorses that "flutter." Your child will be absorbed by the detailed and colorful pictures and delighted by the sweet story. - Ventura County Parent (September 2004)

Marianne Berkes puts a delightful marine spin on the old meadow counting rhyme in Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef. Moving through the book from 1 to 10, youngsters learn about sea-dwelling creatures as each mother instructs her babies to squirt (octopus), puff (pufferfish) and skitter (needlefish). the rhyme takes an amusing turn at the end when father seahorse flutters in as the educating parent - demonstrating, of course, that love for offspring need not be gender specific. Jeanette Canyon's polymer artwork is unique and stunning. A "tips from the artist" section gives insight into her process and offers suggestions for creating clay art with kids. With additional sections on fingerplay games and the coral reef community, this book is a wonderful Valentine gift for educators, parents and children alike. - Washington Parent - Mary Quattlebaum (February 2005)

Illustrations from polymer clay feature sea creatures and their babies cavorting in and around a coral reef. Children will also have fun counting the ten different types of marine life. End pages give information on coral reefs, the various animals portrayed, and creative tips from the author and illustrator. = Arizona Parenting - Lynda Exley (April 2005)

I find this book to be so fascinating! It's pictures are made with polymer clay! I could sit and look at the pictures for hours! Really exquisitely done! And it's a different take on the "Over in the Meadow" book which I also love...this one with an ocean spin. This is a book has such a lovely lilt to it when you read it aloud to children. I like the rhythm of it. And I love that it is about ocean animals. At the end of the book there is the tune of the song to sing with the book, some fingerplays to do with it, facts about the animals in the book, and even a little about how the pictures were created. Fascinating! I just can't get enough of this book! It's so fun to read and so fun to look at! - (September 2006)

Illustrations from polymer clay feature sea creatures and their babies cavorting in and around a coral reef. Children will also have fun counting the ten different types of marine life. End pages give information on coral reefs, the various animals portrayed, and creative tips from the author and illustrator. - The Children's Hour - Notable Books for 2004 (May 2005)

You can find a lot of colors and shapes in a coral reef, and this book uses an original illustration method to bring a fresh look to marine life. The author adapts the favorite song "Over in the Meadow" to a coral reef, incorporating both a lesson in the reef's inhabitants and a lesson in counting. The colorful illustrations are actually photographs of scenes created in polymer clay. The book concludes with some interesting facts about the coral reef community, tips from the author on how to read the book in different ways and some notes from the illustrator on how she used a variety of common household instruments, like a pasta machine and cake decorating tools to shape her creations. - Cincinnatti Family Magazine - Sherry Hang (October 2004)

This magnificent, colorful book (perfect as a gift for ages 3 to 8) uses polymer clay to bring picture books for children to a compelling new dimension. Illustrations by Jeanette Canyon are practically tactile, and are actually photographs of reliefs shaped and sculpted from clay. Kids go under the sea and meet pufferfish, seahorses and more in this delightful book. - Charlotte Parent Magazine (October 2004)

(5 star rating) - Polymer clay has given children's book artists (the beauty of this artwork goes beyond the term "illustrator") a new medium to help tell stories. Nowhere is this medium used to greater effect than "Over in the Ocean in a Coral Reef" by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon. Ms. Canyon's colors are so vibrant and brilliant, I was astonished to read that her medium was entirely polymer clay. Her pieces look like glass.

This book is based on the classic song "Over in the Meadow." The tune is provided for you with all of the words at the end, so you can play it on piano, recorder, violin or whatever instrument you like. There is a lot of information at the end about the coral reef animals, and about the book. There are even fingerplay instructions for extended fun. The artist has a terrific section about how she makes her relief-work art. There are some fascinating tips like how she gave the clownfish scales by pressing a cherry tomato mesh bag on the fish, and how she created sand by mixing ground black pepper with the clay. There is also a note about other books by Dawn Publications.

"Over in the Meadow" is an old counting song that describes an mother animal one baby (with each animal the number of babies grows progressively larger). The mother tells the baby to do something. In the traditional song, the animals are familiar and the actions pretty mundane. In this story, the animals are all coral reef creatures and the action gets pretty wild! Octopi squirt, parrotfish grind, stingray stir, pufferfish puff, of course, and needlefish skitter. Since they all live in a coral reef, instead of describing their habitat, as the old song does, the animals are sometimes described in great detail. The needlefish are very streamlined and straight. Where warranted, the habitat is described, for example, the clownfish are found in a sea anemone, and the parrotfish are found where the sea grasses grow.

The last page of the story is like an Eye Spy game. You are asked to find all the creatures in the vibrant reef, which teems with creatures. They are listed with small pictures next to their numbers, for easy identification. For example, after the number 10, there are ten tiny seahorses.

The artwork is not only biologically accurate, it is intensely beautiful. The cover features greeny brown seahorses against an aqua sea of swirls, and hot pink coral. A little seahorse peaks out of the father's pouch. The number of each animal is found on the sides of the page, sculpted into the sand that borders the main illustration. Ms. Canyon says she rolls the clay into canes, with layers of different colors and then slices them, creating a kaleidescope effect. I have seen people make jewelry using this technique, but never anything so gorgeous as this book. - (December 2005)

. . . what makes this book especially noteworthy are the dramatic illustrations that portray the amazing colors and shapes of a coral reef. Illustrator Jeanette Canyon used common kitchen equipment - including a pasta machine, food processor and cake decorating tools - to roll, slice and dice the marine habitat. The resulting photographs are overflowing with color and texture. This book is a visual treat for all ages! - Kids Vermont(November 2004)

Berkes adapts the classic song "Over in the Meadow" to bring both a counting element and a musical element to the coral reef habitat. She has produced a book guaranteed to engage children while it educates them about marine life. The coral reef is teeming with pufferfish that "puff," gruntfish that "grunt" and seahorses that "flutter." The babies follow the behavior of their mothers - except in a true-to-life twist at the end. Includes plenty of age-appropriate background information about each of the animals. The book's illustrations are composed of photographs of reliefs shaped and sculpted from polymer clay - a wonderful, friendly, pliable and colorful medium. - Arizona Networking News (October/November 2004)

Over in the Ocean is a wonderful rendition of the "over in the meadow" chant with its familiar rhythm accompanying the new words and illustrations. I am completely smitten with Jeanette's use of polymer clay and her invitation to "young fingers to fashion fishy forms." I found new appreciation for the use of clay in early childhood education when I visited the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy in 1992 and find the tips from author and from the illustrator outstanding. This book can be used as an enjoyable read or as a springboard to art, science, language arts, music, math - to name a few. - Learning Explorations - Barbara Gieger, President (August 2004)

Author, Marianne Berke, engages children's math, music, science and listening skills in this beautifully illustrated rhyming book. As a storyteller, I found this book a useful tool to motivate my preschoolers in counting - holding up fingers and acting out what the creatures in the sea do - flutter, graze, skitter, grunt, etc.. "What does the Clownfish do?" I'd ask. Putting their hands together in a praying mode, the children act out the fish darting here and there. And there are finger plays that go with each sea creature mentioned.

Older children will particularly enjoy the tips from both the author and the artist (Jeannette Canyon) at the back of the book. Included, is additional factual information about the ten sea creatures mentioned in the story.

Recommended for children ages 3-8. Finger play fun helps build children's vocabulary. Instructional, fun and factual, this is a wonderful resource book for parents, teachers, storytellers and librarians. - The Kaboose Network - - Claudia Ann Sodaro (September 2004) -

“Angelfish graze, sea horses flutter, and puffer fish puff in this counting book that's an introduction to a coral reef. The book's colorful art is constructed entirely from clay. Dive on in! - Learning Magazine (October 2004)

This is a cute rhyming stor y about life around a coral reef. It's also a counting book, a music book, and a science book. On top of all that, it has absolutely amazing illustrations that are formed completely out of colored clays. This is a very impressive project and also a very effective one. We rated it five hearts. - Heartland Reviews ( - Bob Spear (Oct./Dec. 2004)

Marianne Berkes has done it again with a fun and factual book that kids will enjoy. Jeanette Canyon has created beautiful illustrations. Here's a wonderful ocean story for young kids. -- Philip Baldwin, Program Director Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

If you love marine life, music, or math, then this is the book for you! Marianne Berkes's whimsical treatment of the classic song "Over in the Meadow" coupled with Jeanette Canyon's engaging illustrations makes for an irresistible counting book. Add in just enough background information on the marine life portrayed, and you have a picture book that stands up to repeated readings. Don't miss this wonderful collaboration! -- Suzanne Barchers, Ed.D., Editor in Chief and V.P., LeapFrog SchoolHouse

Over in the Ocean uses the rhythm of the song "Over in the Meadow" to create a fun, musical and mathematical rhyme about marine life. The intricate illustrations are made of polymer clay. They are large and colorful. Readers will notice new creatures every time they look at the detailed illustrations. The back of the book includes the music, the words to the story and factual information about coral reefs and the marine life included in the book. The counting and predictability of this book will make it a favorite among children. The paperback copy wont last long. I will definitely purchase a hardbound copy for the library. -- Lane Education Service District - Patricia Brigham (December 2007)


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