Gone are the days of nonfiction picture books that read like a desiccated encyclopedia entry. Yay!
the heyday of beautifully written STEM-oriented picture books!! DEEP, DEEP DOWN is part of this glorious tsunami.
With a lyricism that submerges us in the beauty of a secret place that some used to believe was the lair of monsters, Lydia Lukidis transforms the pitch-dark world of the deepest place in the ocean into a garden of wonder. But first she asks the reader questions. What do they think they might find in this murky place? Vampire squid or other creepy critters?
The answers prove surprising. Using a layered structure, Lukidis uses poetic language to describe the submersible’s descent through the water column and the creatures that appear outside its portholes, while also offering up more detailed information about the creatures and the depth at which they’re found. Here’s an example:
(My apologies. I tried and failed to get WordPress to arrange the flow of text as shown in the book.)
A cluster of delicate branches cartwheels by,
twirling and whirling like an underwater acrobat.
Crinoids look like tiny trees,
but they’re wondrous creatures.
on feathery arms.
A sidebar provides more details about the unusual way crinoids trap and eat their food, and a dark tag in the lower left corner of the verso page shows the ocean’s depth and crinoid stats. (I decided to show this spread because I once found fossilized crinoids in the gravel used to pave the lane to my grandfather’s farm. The exterior of the fossil was horizontally ribbed and the interior sparkled like quartz. The gravel must have come from an ancient sea floor in Illinois, but I digress…)
DEEP, DEEP DOWN provides a lovely peek into the mysteries of the Mariana Trench, where few have ever ventured. Back matter includes a cool illustrated cross-section of the trench and where the featured creatures are found in the water column (very helpful for kids to visualize), and a page of Q+A that deepens the reader’s understanding of the trench, including a paragraph about water pressure at depth and why the trench is so hard to explore, how little food there is for those who live there, and an explanation of how it was first formed.
The illustrations do a fabulous job of adding an air of mystery and the sense that we’re diving through the water along with the submersible. A truly beautiful book!
Make your own deep sea scene with coloring sheets created by Juan Calle, and available from Lydia’s website.
Watch this YouTube video about the Mariana Trench produced by Natural World Facts.
Color and build your own paper models of crinoids, using instructions created by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Title: Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench
Author: Lydia Lukidis
Illustrator: Juan Calle
Publisher: Capstone, 2023
Ages: Elementary school
Themes: deep sea life, Mariana Trench, ocean mysteries
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.