on August 7, 2004
Despite the negative commentary from some reviewers, I say the real truth comes in the "true raters"--the children!! My 2+ yr old daughter was given this book as a gift (that she picked out in the bookstore). She absolutely loves it, and in the month that we've had it, we've read it nearly 50 times at her request. She loves the colors and the transparency overlays, and definitely points out the "daddy" seahorse (as well as the "mommy") every time we read it together. Her favorite page is the last one as Mr. Seahorse releases his babies with love and points out that it's time for the little ones to be on their own. She simply adores this book!
Given the commentary of many of the reviewers on the father fish "babysitting" the baby fish....If you do look to nature, many animals (and many male animals) do abandon their offspring...so I saw the book more as personifying family in nature rather than making a sexist commentary on fatherhood, patriarchal society, or gender roles in parenting.
Likewise, with older children, it could be a great springboard for discussions on responsibility and caring. I plan to use it in this manner in my 3rd grade class this year. It's at this point a person could discuss the phrasing, and talk about the parental role--moms and dads both babysit at times while the other does an errand...and "babysit" is a term children understand.
Perhaps at times, we can get so caught up in being politically correct, that we miss the forest through the trees, or miss a great book on an over-exaggerated technicality that's taken too seriously.
I think I am right in saying that Eric Carle is the most popular children's picture book artist living today that eschews the universal convention of facial expressions. Not every illustrator in the world could get away with it. Carle has sort of established a whole new placid unemotional genre all on his own. Consider, if you will, "The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar" who shows one brief moment of bellyache related pain before bursting from his cocoon to become a beautiful unexpressive butterfly. For my own part, this disregard of facial expressions is hard to get through. In one of his latest offerings, "Mister Seahorse", Carle tackles the weighty subject of a father's responsibility to his kin. Since I like this book more than some of Carle's others, I suggest you take the hero's nonplussed attitude as merely a realistic representation of real seahorses in the wild.
One day, Mrs. Seahorse becomes preggers. As is the seahorse custom, she promptly deposits her eggs in Mr. Seahorse's pouch. With the eggs safely ensconced there, Mr. Seahorse goes about his daily rounds. While out, he comes across Mr. Stickleback, Mr. Tilapia, Mr. Kurtus, Mr. Pipe, and Mr. Bullhead. Each fish has his own distinct way of caring for his born and unborn young. For example, Mr. Bullhead baby-sits (admittedly, Carle could have used a better term for this) his newborn hatchlings while Mr. Tilapia carries his young's eggs around in his mouth. Kids reading this book with their parents have the added pleasure of watching Mr. Seahorse as he approaches single fishies hiding in seaweed, behind coral reefs, and in small patches of reeds. In these scenes the page becomes translucent plastic, the reeds, reefs, and seaweed a beautifully painted scene overlaying the action. In the end, Mr. Seahorse's eggs hatch and as one of his little offspring attempts to go back to the pouch he remarks affectionately, "I do love you, but now you are ready to be on your own". Hence the popularity this book has enjoyed as a newfound graduation present for high school Seniors everywhere.
On the back of the book, Carle posts a note that explains how in most fish families eggs are left on their own. This book encompasses the exceptions to that rule, going as far as to show that the father is the main parent in certain cases. Rare but true. The premise is irresistable. One that I'm sure several children's authors are probably kicking themselves for not having thought of on their own first. Flipping through the story, Carle has passed over his normal palette of bright primary colors for deft pastel watercolors. They're still exciting to look through, but there's a definite underwater feel to the luminous pinks, blues, greens and oranges that abound here. According to the book, the art was done in painted tissue-paper collage. The result is a deft interweaving of crinkly creatures in soothing but lively shades.
There is, of course, the writing itself to contend with. Now I'm saying right here and now that this book's premise is good and its art is good. No arguments there. But there's just not much of a plot. It's a simple formulation of "Mr. Seahorse goes here, sees this, goes there, talks to that" repeated roughly four times. Characters do not smile. They speak without a conjunction in sight. It's all lovely to look at and your first reading of the book will be delighted. Your second reading will be a smidgen repetitive, but you'll still love the pretty pictures. And by reading number fifteen you'll begin to wonder why Mr. Seahorse didn't have a little more fun with his eggs. Or ask other fathers more questions. Or even crack a joke once in a while. These complaints, I should admit, are more to do with Eric Carle's writing style and less the flaws of this book in particular. Still, though this book is a beautiful story, it leaves something to be desired.
If you're looking for a good science-based book with excellent information about underwater creatures and an interesting series of facts about male fishies, there are few books better than, "Mr. Seahorse". If you want a story about a father saying goodbye to his offspring and letting them out into the world, "Mr. Seahorse" is your best bet. And if you want a book that is beautiful to look at and contains unparalled watercolors and nifty tricks to make you feel as if you too are under the sea, give it up for, "Mr. Seahorse". But if you want an underwater tale with oomph and pizzazz, choose Leo Lionni's, "Swimmy". This book is far better than "Rainbow Fish", but it still lacks the spirit of little red "Swimmy". In the end, it's an excellent tale in some respects and a mediocre one in others. Depending on what you hope to get out of your picture books, it should satisfy or disappoint you as much as you like. I enjoyed it. Not everyone would.
on August 21, 2004
Like all Eric Carle books it's a beautifuly colored and in his signature style. It features different hidden characters behind acetate.
What make this particularly interesting is that it's all about marine life where the males handle the eggs and not the females.
I found that wonderfully educational to show my kids different sea creatures where the dads carry around the eggs in many many different ways. In their mouths, on their bellies, in pouches etc. until they hatch. I was surprized and loved to see and explain that!
It's a simple concept, whereby if a mom sea creature were to be introduced it would not only physically complicate the illustrated pages, it would also distract from the simplicity of the storyline.
So where are the moms? Does it matter? There's references galore as to how happy the Mrs. must be. This book doesn't suggest single parenting, alternative lifestyles, or anything other than the simple reckognition of marine species caring for their offspring completely different than animals and people and illustrating the differences to children in a simple and eye opening way. It's a "well what do you know"! "Look at how that one does that"! for preschoolers. Simple concepts.
4 stars for refering to one sea creatures particular parental duty as "babysitting" not parenting...
BUT on a very simple note, just tell your child as I did, "oops, that should be parenting and not babysitting because parents can't babysit their own kids, that's their job" NO BIG DEAL. It's pretty darn easy to use some parental wisdom to make that correction. It brings up 2 more lessons. Nobody is perfect and everything that's in print isn't neccesarily the truth (well, an older kids lesson). Eric Carle is an older gentleman. Perhaps it's from his generation or maybe he doesn't have any kids.
I think that the reality and the simplicity of the story makes up for one silly notion that can simply be corrected. No need to make mountains out of mole hills.
on June 21, 2004
Perhaps it's the watery images or my love for the ocean that drew my heart, but I love this book! Mister Seahorse is a winner, even if the younger ones don't fully grasp the depth of meaning Carle intended. Children innately sense the mystery of life because they themselves know they came from someone, too.
And, like the little baby seahorse, one day they will need to be on their own also. As Crush, the lovable sea turtle in Finding Nemo says, "Sweet, totally."
on March 23, 2015
I loved this book, and so does my little boy. I started reading it to him at 6 months, and now, at 14 months, it's still a favorite. He especially loves the translucent pages. And I love the message that dads also help care for their babies. The Very Hungry Caterpillar tends to get all the Eric Carle attention, but I think this book is just as beautiful and meaningful.
on September 16, 2008
As always, Eric Carle has created a beautiful book that really captures a child's attention. My 2 year-old daughter just loves this one. She's recently taken to "reading" to me and doesn't much care to be read to these days - this is one of the very few that she requests me to read repeatedly (4 times in a row this afternoon).
Eric Carle usually has some sort of "gimmick" within his books - in this case it is a few pages that are clear, with pictures of seaweed and such, that you can see a fish hiding behind (on the next page).
Why didn't I give it 5 stars? Because of one line toward the end of the story - one in which a fish dad declares he is "babysitting" his own babies! I absolutely cannot stand to hear dads refer to caring for their children as "babysitting." That is wrong on so many levels. I'm thinking of putting a sticker over that and re-writing it - that is how offensive it was to me (and I am not usually a P.C., easily-offended, censoring type of person).
For as offensive as that line is, however, I wouldn't let it prevent you from buying this beautiful, fun book that celebrates fatherhood and different kinds of sea creatures.
on July 21, 2004
My children, 7 and 4 both loved this book. The illustrations were as beautiful as always and I enjoyed the look at sea animals caring for their young, and father sea animals at that. The story was typical Carle in my opinion--we enjoy his books primarily for their inventiveness and beauty.
They start discussions in our home rather than spell it all out for the children.
Once again, loved the fathering in this book. It's worth a peek just for that interesting insight into sea life.
on August 10, 2014
I work in a daycare and my friend, who's the pre-K teacher, recommended this book to me. It's one of the few Eric Carle books I didn't have. It's beautiful, interactive (there are pages that reveal other sea creatures), and highlights the role of several male creatures in the lives of their young. My class of 3 yo's loved learning about the ways the 'daddy-fishes' cared for their babies. Mr. Carle, as always, found a clever and beautiful way to let children explore the world around them, while at the same time, scoring one for the often under-appreciated dads/father figures in their lives. Highly recommended!