________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 11. . . .November 18, 2016


On the Reef.

Judith & Shandley McMurray. Original art by Robert Bateman with The Tobin Island Artists and Others.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Publishing, 2016.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-77085-857-2.

Subject Headings:
Marine ecology-Juvenile literature.
Marine ecosystem management-Juvenile literature.
Environmental responsibility-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***˝ /4



There are so many fish I can barely see the water. I swim through the middle of a school of yellow ones with blue spots near their eyes called Golden Butterfly fish. They move out of my way before sucking themselves back together after I pass.

“Wook,” Chloe says through her snorkel. “Arrot Ish.” I look where her finger is pointing and see a turquoise and electric pink fish. It looks right at me before darting away.

I find its picture on the waterproof card that’s attached to my wrist. Chloe’s right, this one’s called a Parrot Fish. It’s kind of weird to name a fish after a bird.


In this vividly illustrated picture book, a family travels to the Bahamas and explores the coral reef with a local snorkeling guide. They marvel at the biodiversity of plants and animals that inhabit the reef, and they learn of its importance and the need to care for this fragile underwater ecosystem. The adventure takes on a new imperative when Zachary spots an endangered Hawksbill Turtle entangled in plastic. They alert local authorities so the turtle can be treated at a rescue centre and later released. The final page of the book shares details of the serious nature of plastic ocean pollution and expands on facts about the wildlife seen in the story. This book is a delightful introduction to the fascinating world of the reef and its urgent need for protection.

     The story is told from the viewpoint of young Zachary, in an easy-to-follow writing style, accessible language and authentic voice. Dialogue and narrative detail are smoothly integrated as the adventure unfolds. For example, when Zachary sees an intriguing, striped Lion Fish and reaches to touch it, his mom has the chance to warn him of its poisonous nature.

     Several highly talented illustrators have contributed work to this publication: well-known nature artist Robert Bateman, the award-winning Tobin Island Artists, and two guest artists from the Bahamas. The book is like a mini-art gallery as their styles blend perfectly to portray the landscape, the family activities and the variety of plants and animals. The brilliant depictions of reef fish amid the colourful coral evoke the impressions of a virtual tour. Young readers will enjoy revisiting the paintings to find new details in the shapes and textures.

     On The Reef is part of a series called “Children’s Books for Charity”. Proceeds from the sale will support The Bateman Foundation and the Canadian Wildlife Foundation. This is a creative way to bring children closer to nature while at the same time encouraging their concern for it.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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