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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Spotlight on MSBA: The Strangest Thing in the Sea, and Other Curious Creatures of the Deep

This week continues a series of posts spotlighting books from this year's Maine Student Book Award list. If you missed the previous posts, here's a little summary:

Every year, a committee of teachers and librarians from across Maine (this one included), read through hundreds and hundreds of books for young readers to craft a final list of forty titles that students in grades 4 through 8 across the state can read throughout the school year. It's an exciting announcement each spring as we find out which book captured the most young hearts and minds throughout Maine when students vote for their favorites! You can find the award and voting process and the list for the 2022-2023 Maine Student Book Award here. Follow the links at the end of this post to request any of this year's MSBA books from our catalog.

Get your hands ready, because Rachel Poliquin and Byron Eggenschwiler's picture book The Strangest Thing in the Sea, and Other Curious Creatures of the Deep is an interactive feast for the eyes. Every spread in this informational book about creatures of the sea offers a variety of facts about a fascinating denizen of the deep through whimsical first-person narration, giving readers the chance to open the gatefold and discover which underwater being they've been learning about. Throughout, the question "Am I the strangest thing in the sea?" is posed for us to contemplate, all leading up a to a little twist at the book's close. This hands on mystery of the deep is a fun way for kids to learn about some lesser known sea creatures and is backed up by a glossary for further cementing the knowledge. It's a guessing game between two covers, though hats off to you if you can identify a vampire squid by name without opening one of Eggenschwiler's illustrated spreads.

Sometimes information is all about how it's presented, and The Strangest Thing in the Sea is a great example of a book structured in a way that can keep a reader engaged and motivated to learn through an interactive format and humorous tone. It can be pored over individually or shared in a lively group setting. And course we have to decide, what is the strangest thing in the sea? Is it a goblin shark? A pygmy seahorse? If Chickenology is about creatures a little closer to home, The Strangest Thing in the Sea offers an alternative... a deep dive into a world with which we all tend to engage less directly but may nevertheless find incredibly alluring.

To discover more about other books from this year's list, check out these past blog posts:

The Magical Imperfect, a novel in verse by Chris Baron

The Girl from the Sea, a graphic novel by Molly Knox Ostertag

Garlic & the Vampire, a graphic novel by Bree Paulsen

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, a picture book written by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith

Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia, an informational picture book by Barbara Sandri and Francesco Guibbilini, illustrated by Camilla Pintonato


Maine Student Book Award

Combined 2022-2023 Reading List

Applegate, Katherine. Willodeen.

Bacon, Lee. Imaginary.

Bailar, Schuyler. Obie is Man Enough.

Baron, Chris. The Magical Imperfect.

Bowling, Dusti. Across the Desert.

Chan, Maisie. Danny Chung Sums It Up.

Culley, Betty. Down to Earth.

Durham, David Anthony. The Shadow Prince.

Fagan, Deva. Nightingale.

Fipps, Lisa. Starfish.

Fox, Janet S. Carry Me Home.

Freeman, Megan E. Alone.

Guerrero, Tanya. All You Knead is Love.

Higuera, Donna Barba. The Last Cuentista.

Hoyle, McCall. Stella.

Lawrence, Iain. Deadman’s Castle.

Lim, Elizabeth. Six Crimson Cranes.

Ostertag, Molly. The Girl From the Sea.

Parks, Amy Noelle. Summer of Brave.

Paulsen, Bree. Garlic & the Vampire.

Pineiro, Victor. Time Villains.

Rosenberg, Madelyn. One Small Hop.

Roux, Madeleine. No Humans Allowed.

Smith, Matthew Ross. The Million Dollar Race.

Sorosiak, Carlie. Leonard (My Life as a Cat).

Swinarski, Claire. The Kate in Between.

Uss, Christina. Erik Vs. Everything.

Venable, Colleen A. Katie the Catsitter.

Walker, Angharad. The Ash House.

Zhao, Katie. Last Gamer Standing.

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