Last May, I fell in love with John Hare's debut picture book, Field Trip to the Moon, a wordless exploration of the moon. Besides the exciting location for a field trip and the dreaded "child left behind" fear of every teacher, the book is a fantastical exploration of a child who befriends "moon natives" through the powerful universal language of art. (Review.)
I was really excited to see this talented author/illustrator return with a school trip into the ocean. John's created a great splash with this second book. And I'm not the only one who thinks so, it's been named as a Junior Library Guild Selection. This inventive, gloriously illustrated, imaginative book explores what might happen when a child, left behind on the ocean floor, waits for his teacher's return.
Field Trip to the Ocean Deep
Author/Illustrator: John Hare
Publisher: Holiday House (2020)
Field trip, ocean, marine life, adventure, humor, and friendship.
Come join the fun as students take a submarine bus on a field trip to explore the ocean deep, in this wordless picture book from the creator of Field Trip to the Moon!
Students dressed in deep sea helmets travel to the ocean deep in a yellow school-bus submarine. When they get there, they frolic with fish, chase luminescent squid, and discover an old shipwreck.
But when it's time to return to the submarine bus, one student lingers to take a photo of a treasure chest and falls into a deep ravine. Luckily, the child makes an unexpected friend— a maybe-not-so-extinct sea creature called a Plesiosaur- that's happy to entertain the young explorer until the teacher returns.
In his follow-up to Field Trip to the Moon, John Hare's rich, atmospheric art in this wordless picture book invites all children to imagine themselves in the story- a tale full of mysteries, surprises, and adorable aquatic friends.
Opening Lines [Description]:
[Departing from the school's dock, a class heads into a yellow & black school submarine.]
[Skimming past sea life and corals, the submarine heads down into the ocean.]
[The class continues diving past sea stars, fish, jellyfish, and anemones. With an ominous shape in their wake.]
What I Loved about this book:
Once again, John Hare uses every inch of space. The story begins on the cover - showing a futuristic school and a class of eleven kids boarding a submarine. The curly-headed artist from Field Trip to the Moon is once again bringing up the rear.
© John Hare, 2020.
The title page and the next spread follow the submarine's dive. All of these images include beautiful snapshots of sea life (manta rays, numerous species of fish, and sea worms) and humorous moments (like a treasure map in a bottle and the submarine "droping anchor"). Decending from light pastel blues into deep cobalt blue, the submarine reaches the ocean floor.
© John Hare, 2020.
We meet the MC as he photographs his classmates disembarking in their deep-sea diving suits. Following along with the class, the teacher guides us past bioluminescent squid, steam vents, ghostly fish, white crabs, plume worms, and huge clams on our way to a sunken ship. I love how John again manages to convey individuality, emotion (excitement, curiosity, nervousness, abandonment, etc. ), and adventure without any facial cues.
© John Hare, 2020.
Ultimately, the MC's fascination with taking pictures results in him falling behind the class, discovering a treasure chest, befriending three giant isopods, and . . . being left behind. As the isopods try to cheer their new friend by looking at his digital pictures, a toothy "monster" swoops in. If they hadn't spotted it earlier, kids will enjoy going back (or rereading) and trying to find the "monster," who'd been "hiding" since the beginning, and pointing out how the teacher never sees it.
John's sense of whimsy continues as our intrepid photographer bumbles through a few misadventures and discoveries. Ultimately, friendship and cooperation yield a happy ending. A great "afterward" scene shows the diverse class in the submarine looking at the MC's photographs, and hints at some of the kids' personalities and perhaps additional Field Trip books.
With his intricate, spare images, John takes the reader on an amazing visual exploraton of the ocean floor, its flora and fauna, and potential secrets. It's a great book for sparking #STEM discussions on oceanography and marine animals, as well as friendship and what do if lost on a trip. The inclusion of cutaways of the "5-UB Deep Sea Bus" and the kid's "DS-7 Deep Sea Diving Suit" adds a touch of whimsical science (as these two don't exit, yet). Overall, it is a beautiful wordless adventure that is sure to spark interest in what else exists in the ocean's depths.
- watch the Smithsonian's video of a real-life deep-sea exploration. Can you spot the creatures from this book? What other ones did you see? https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/invertebrates/hydrothermal-vent-creatures
- write a story or draw a pictures of an animal you'd like to make friends within the ocean.
- since the deep-sea suit doesn't exist, draw an image (or write the specs) for your version of such a suit.
- if you could explore the bottom of the ocean, what do you think you'd find? Write a story, or draw an image, of your adventure.
- make your own submarine
If you missed John Hare's interview last Monday, read it here.
This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.