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Mister Seahorse Hardcover – April 26, 2004
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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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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We already like Eric Carle's illustrations the best in board book format and especially for this book - I would not recommend any version other than the board because of the transparent yet robust pages in between.
Recommended age for the board book is 2-5 yrs
Mister Seahorse takes care of Mrs. Seahorse's eggs one day, and carries them in a pouch on his stomach. He goes around the ocean, and encounters a few other fish that also happen to be dads that are taking care of their eggs too. Between encounters, Mister Seahorse will see different creatures hiding behind rocks, seaweed and other objects, introducing the reader to new kinds of marine life. The final pages have the babies hatching from their eggs in Mister Seahorse's tummy, and they all leave him, ready to go out into the world on their own. One seahorse tries to go back, but, lovingly, Mister Seahorse tells it that while he does love the baby, it needs to go on without him.
This book has the usual colorful Eric Carle artwork with tissue paper, and it looks beautiful. Every book I see by him, it's like his work just gets better and better. And you gotta love the use of transparent sheets to hide some of the fish every couple of pages. One page will say that Mister Seahorse sees something, then the next page is covered by a transparent plastic sheet with something to hide the fish on the page beneath it. Like a big brown rock concealing a big brown fish. When you turn the page, Mister Seahorse is covered by the object, and it still looks good. Kids will love this feature, and my daughter is always eager to turn the clear pages herself.
The only negative thing I can point out is that the book is repetitive with the plot- Mister Seahorse encounters another father fish, tells it that it's doing a good job, bumps into hidden creatures, repeat a few times, but it's been said that children love repetition, so I can't dock points for that. The story is still cute, and the artwork is eye candy galore. Plus this is one of the few kid's books I've seen around that focuses on the dad taking care of his children, and it's good that good ol' Eric did a story with this theme. 5 stars for great art, great use of clear pages, and for being my daughter's second book that she's memorized (the other being Where the Wild Things Are of course).