I am a charter member of the the Steve Jenkins Fan Club. I love the way Jenkins draws on children's natural curiosity to teach them about our world. I love how he makes complex information accessible to kids. And of course I love Jenkins' beautiful collage illustrations. SISTERS AND BROTHERS, and ACTUAL SIZE have long been two of my favorite nonfiction mentor texts. This weekend, Jenkins' newest book, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN: A JOURNEY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, leaped to the top of my list of all time favorite nonfiction/information picture books.
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN begins with this one page introduction:
"Viewed from space, the earth looks like a watery blue ball. Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the globe's surface, and well over half the planet lies beneath water more than a mile (1 1/2 kilometers deep). 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 ocean.Jenkins begins at the surface of the ocean, and takes his readers on a journey 35,838 feet down, to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Each two-page spread represents a different cross section of the ocean. A "depth-meter" on the righthand side helps readers to know how far down they have travelled. Headings, accompanied by one or two paragraphs of text, explain to the reader what might be going on at that level. The text is typical Jenkins- meaty, yet accessible and interesting to kids. Here are a few facts that I found particularly interesting:
In this book, we'll descend from the ocean's surface to the sea floor and travel through one of the most extreme environments on earth. Along the way we'll encounter some unusual creatures…"
- The bodies of most ocean animals are filled with fluids, so they don't have a problem with the pressure found under the ocean.
- Nine out of every ten animals that live below the sunlit layers of the ocean are bioluminescent- they can produce their own light. Anything containing a hollow, air-filled space, such as a human body or a submarine, risks being crushed as it descends.
- At 3,300 feet, marine snow, composed of dead plankton, fish scales, animal waste, and bits of larger creatures that have died in the waters above, is the primary food source for small animals, who then become prey for larger hunters.
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN is a book that will fascinate kids (not to mention parents and teachers!) I could use the book to teach kids about tools such as headings and diagrams and appendixes. I could use it as a mentor for interesting nonfiction writing. I love having kids draw on Jenkins' work to create illustrations for their own research reports. A must-own for any library, classroom, or family!