Melissa Stewart, author
Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than one hundred and fifty science books for children, including Feathers: Not Just for Flying; No Monkeys, No Chocolate; and Can an Aardvark Bark? (Beach Lane Books). She lives in Acton, Massachusetts.
Read more about Melissa Stewart.
Sarah S. Brannen, illustrator
Sarah S. Brannen is the author and illustrator of Madame Martine (Albert Whitman), Uncle Bobby's Wedding (G. P. Putnam and Sons), and the illustrator of Feathers: Not Just for Flying; Digging for Troy: From Homer to Hisarlik; and At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui. She lives in Massachusetts.
Read more about Sarah S. Brannen.
- Coming soon!
Booklist, starred review
In this handsome companion volume to the ALA Notable book Feathers: Not Just for Flying (2014), Stewart and Brannen provide insights into why seashells vary so greatly in shape, size, and color. Beyond providing protection for aquatic animals, shells sometimes offer forms of locomotion, disguise, warnings, tools, and waste removal. A double-page spread on the nautilus opens, “Seashells can rise and sink like a submarine,” and explains that the animal creates vertical movement by pumping in or releasing water from its spiraled shell, which has chambers containing a lightweight gas. A marine-blue underwater scene features a close-up of a nautilus with a dark gray submarine visible in the distance, while a separate drawing of the nautilus shell points out its gas chambers and the movement of water. The large-print text that runs across the tops of the pages makes excellent use of similes, while short, clearly written paragraphs of pertinent information appear below the illustrations. From the book jacket to the typefaces to the layouts, the book’s design is inviting. The beautiful watercolor paintings work seamlessly with the text to clarify concepts, while keeping the book’s audience in mind. Suggesting new ways to think about seashells, this volume is highly recommended for science collections.
School Library Journal
A well-researched addition to the ocean biome canon, Seashells is unique in that it pairs form with function. Both the text and illustrations present information that is easy to digest and understand. Introducing the concept that seashells come in various shapes and colors due to their different jobs, the author and illustrator then launch into examples such as the scallops that can flit like a butterfly. This is paired with an illustration of a butterfly, a diagram of a shell and how its movement mirrors a butterfly, the shell in its environment, and corresponding text. The language is not too informational or too -poetic; it is just the right amount of colorful and interesting. An appendix of sorts and additional resources are included. VERDICT A delightful addition to an elementary library's nonfiction collection.
An essential book for young beachcombers, Seashells: More Than a Home provides a fascinating overview of 13 kinds of shells. In her accessible text, author Melissa Stewart covers the form, function and native habitat of each shellfish, from the beautifully curved chambered nautilus and the heart-shaped cockle to the Atlantic bay scallop with its rows of fine ridges. Stewart uses analogies from everyday life to help readers understand how these “treasures from a secret world beneath the waves” house clams, snails, oysters and other creatures. Artist Sarah S. Brannen brings the narrative to life through watercolor scenes of boys and girls exploring the seashore and collecting specimens. Precise sketches and diagrams of the shells lend a naturalist feel to the proceedings. Suggestions for further reading and a listing of mollusk types round out the volume. This fun, fact-filled book will inspire up-and-coming collectors while equipping them with important information.
Unpacking the Power of Picture Books
Melissa Stewart is one of the most entertaining and engaging authors of nonfiction, one I admit is a favorite. Even though she has a stack of awards to prove it, I strongly resist naming favorites among anything literary. SEASHELLS: MORE THAN A HOME is a perfect example of the remarkable talent Stewart brings to the research, insights, and writing of science picture books. A nod goes to the illustrators with whom those words and content are paired, as in this case, Sarah S. Brannen.These two creators have been paired for other titles, including FEATHERS: NOT JUST FOR FLYING. In both visuals and text, the depth of science research is evident: endpapers, scientific labeling, simulated field notes, back matter sources, and further prompts. The tone of this book makes it a delight for read aloud for even the youngest. The flowing main narrative provides familiar comparisons of various shell adaptations to increase survival, and Stewart's figurative language provides a pattern for early language development. It is framed within a horizontal and watery display that soothes and refreshes. The parallel paragraphs of accessible but more detailed content and the accurate but soft-edged specimens are set in natural habitats that explain and expand the meaning of the lyrical lines that float across the top of each page.
"Seashells can wear disguises like a spy...
or hide in plain sight like a soldier in camo clothing.
Seashells can open like your mouth...
and close quickly like your eyelids."
A wordless visual narrative allows a diverse and curious group of friends to propel the content through illustrations, spanning a day of noticing, examining, and discussing among themselves what they have found and learned at the beach.
One reason this and its related titles appeal so deeply to my taste is that both text and illustrations also work well with older readers. The similes offer a rich resource as mentor-text for young writers, moving them from simply lifting content and rephrasing it to analyzing, comparing, and expressing science content effectively.
The related information may engage young readers as they develop skills, but will be embaraced by parents who seek ways to answer questions, and by established learners as a template for creating original works on science subjects of their choice.
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Page count: 32
11 x 8 1/2