'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Review: How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures

Beneath the foam bubbles of the sea is a wobbly glass world, largely unknown to us. In fact, it’s thought that we know more about Mars than our own deep-dark oceans. And so, for those curious to know more, come and explore How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures.

This is the first book in a new picture book series about unusual animal evolution stories. Sami Bayly dives down with readers, exploring the ocean’s five different zones, including the Sunlight Zone, Twilight Zone, Midnight Zone, the Abyss and the Trenches. Her yellow and black scuba suit is a constant throughout the book as she discovers unusual sea creatures. 

Each sea creature’s story unfolds through dialogue with Bayly and is set out in speech bubbles. In addition, interesting facts are provided in round fact boxes. This layout breaks up the information into approachable chunks. 

At the end of the book, a double-page spread provides pops of information about more surprising animals which would be perfect for further research at home and in the classroom. Find more teachers’ resources here.

Primarily though, the true magic in this book exists in Bayly’s incredible artwork; her reverence for the creatures shining through her carefully crafted illustrations. Bayly, a natural history illustrator, uses her skill to shine light on these unusual sea creatures. She uses watercolour and some digital elements added in photoshop to help create a deep-sea feeling. I love the way Bayly has captured the decreasing light of the ocean’s different zones in her beautiful watercolour backgrounds which amplify the watery seascape.

My family owns a rich bounty of Bayly’s books, including The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals, The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature. How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures is a real family favourite, especially with my nine-year-old and five-year-old who delight in the facts. My three-year-old pores over the illustrations but the information in the book is a bit beyond him. My family’s current favourite animal is the prickly footballfish which has a fishing rod-like light on its head. And did you know that there is a venus flytrap sea anemone that can release glowing slime from its mouth?

By sharing these incredible sea creatures’ stories, How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures reminds us about finding beauty in the unusual, and promotes our interconnectedness. With plastic pollution littering our oceans, this is most salient. After all, it is difficult to protect what we don’t know.

Title: How We Came to Be: Surprising Sea Creatures
Author/Illustrator: Sami Bayly
Publisher: Lothian, $28.00
Publication Date: 28 September 2022
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780734421364
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book