BeachThe ocean: playful, powerful, mysterious. What kid isn’t intrigued by its crashing waves and salty tang?

Hello Ocean is a sense-tingling read-aloud, whether your family is anticipating a trip to the beach or simply re-visiting memories. In poetic language, author Pam Munoz Ryan explores an ocean setting through each of the five senses. The little-girl narrator sees “amber seaweed,” “speckled sand,” and “bubbly waves,” hears the “screak of gulls,” smells “reeky fish” and “musty shells.”

The carefully researched acrylic paintings by Mark Astrella feature native flora and fauna and show a child taking in the natural world at her own pace. Through her senses and self-directed explorations, this little girl fully experiences and deeply intuits the wonder that is the ocean.

This book was one of my daughter’s favorites when she was a preschooler (she’s now nine). We’d read and talk about Hello Ocean no matter the season. Some of its pull may have been the sea’s unique beauty, but I think there was another powerful draw as well: the invitation to be fully alive to the natural world. On her own, my daughter would often play a kind of “five-senses game.” She’d look closely at a stick, a stone, or a pond, for example, listen to its sounds or the sounds she could make with it, smell, touch, and yes, sometimes, taste it.

Hello Ocean invites us, adults and kids alike, to slow down, to be more aware of our senses and the world around us. In his recent Green Hour Blog, Robert Kesten, executive director of the Center for Screen Time Awareness, cautioned that modern technology (computers, TV, video games) takes us “out of the world in which we live.” So, too, does our hurried pace of life. Commutes can be long, chores many, hours few, and schedules complex. Ai-yi-yi!

Like many modern parents, I can certainly get swept into a multi-tasking frenzy. But–hey!–there’s an ocean out there, beckoning, and even that tree in the backyard is calling. Would you and your child like to take five (five minutes and five senses) and experience either or both?

Hello Ocean is by Pam Munoz Ryan, and was published by Charlesbridge Publishing in 2001. For ages 1 to 7 , it is available in a bilingual English/Spanish edition.

Mary Quattlebaum is the author of 15 award-winning children’s books, including Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns (Random House) and two chapter-book sequels, all set in a city community garden. Check for activities connected with Mary’s books.

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Published: August 27, 2008