Are you ready for a scintillating seahorse fact? The father seahorse is the one who carries the mother's eggs around in his pouch before they hatch. In Mister Seahorse, master collage artist Eric Carle teaches preschoolers this lesson and introduces them to a few other fish who bear the traditionally maternal burden of caring for eggs: the stickleback, tilapia, Kurtus nurseryfish (known here as Mr. Kurtus), pipefish, and bullhead catfish. As ever, it's Carle's art that steals the show. Cut-up tissue paper soaks up the watery paint and makes for a boldly colorful, almost jewel-like undersea journey. The story? Well, repetition is the heart of instruction, after all.
Most of Carle's books employ some sort of gizmo or gadget--and this one is no exception. Here, for a splendid lesson in camouflage, colorful acetate sheets mask marine life that is revealed as the child turns the page. Children may take comfort in the devotion of these undersea fathers...except perhaps at the very end when the father seahorse says to a freshly hatched sea-pony who wants back in the pouch: "I do love you, but now you are ready to be on your own." (Preschool) --Karin Snelson
*Starred Review* PreS-Gr. 3. In this tribute to fathers, fish, and otherwise, Carle adds an element to his signature painted tissue-paper collages that makes his art exceptionally striking. After Mrs. Seahorse deposits her eggs in his pouch, Mr. Seahorse drifts gently through the sea, meeting five other fish fathers who participate in prenatal care: Mr. Stickleback hatches the eggs; Mr. Tilapia holds the eggs in his mouth; Mr. Kurtus, a nurseryfish, sticks the eggs on his head until they hatch; Mr. Pipe, a pipefish, carries the eggs on his narrow belly; and Mr. Bullhead, a catfish, babysits newly hatched fry. With each encounter comes a delightful surprise: an acetate overlay camouflages the sea creatures as Mister Seahorse passes by: a lionfish hides in a coral reef; a stonefish hides behind a rock. The vivid, multicolored fish and translucent scenery perfectly evoke the watery backdrop, and the acetate sea scenes are as innovative as the die-cuts in Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Pair this with Lionni's Swimmy for a delightful glass-bottomed boat tour. Awash with the wonders of undersea life, this is a stunning, ingeniously conceived lesson in nature as well as a celebration of fatherly affection. Julie Cummins
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