Makana is a Gift by Janet Lucy

Makana is a Gift

 Makana es un Regalo/ Bilingual version

Janet Lucy, Author

Alexis Cantu, Illustrator

Seven Seas Press, Nonfiction, Jun. 13, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Sea turtles, Marine life, Oceans, Pollution, Plastics, Purpose, Identity

Opening: “The Sun glistened on the water like gold glitter, where a little green seat turtle was basking on the surface of the warm turquoise water of Turtle Cove.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

One bright morning a little green sea turtle basks on the surface of Turtle Cove, where he arrived the night before. He hatched from a nest on a shore hundreds of miles away, and has spent the first six years of his life swimming through the ocean. Here in Turtle Cove he meets the inhabitants—a wise elder turtle, Kato, and other sea creatures. He admires the unique features of an octopus and starfish, and wishes he could swim with a school of fish. He observes the gulls and terns flying freely overhead, and begins to question his identity.

Makana is a Gift is the story of a young sea turtle’s quest to understand his unique purpose, who and why he is, while waiting to be given his name. One morning while hungry for breakfast, he mistakes a plastic bag for a jellyfish, takes a bite as many sea turtles do, and must seek help to survive this too common, life-threatening experience.

In the end, he understands that all creatures are needed to help and care for each other; he too has a unique and essential purpose; that life is a gift, and so is he. In Hawaiian, Makana means gift, and thus he receives his name.

Why I like Makana is a Gift

Janet Lucy’s storytelling is magical. Her prose has a gentle rhythm that reminds one of the lapping waves. Packed with fascinating facts, beautiful watercolor illustrations and a lovely theme about identity and finding your purpose, Makana’s journey will fuel curious young minds and inspire the next generation of nature lovers. It will definitely appeal to children who have a passion for learning about marine wildlife and a special interest in ocean creatures and all things hidden beneath the sea.  

Children will learn about how a mother sea turtle makes a nest in the sand and lays around 100 eggs the size of ping pong balls.  The sun warms the sand as the little turtles develop in about two months. Once they begin to hatch, they crawl to the ocean, hoping they won’t meet predators along the way. If they reach the water, they will be on their own.

Sea turtles and marine life need protection from the plastic bags and straws that they mistake for food, as Makana discovers. It is important for children to learn how vulnerable sea turtles and marine life can be to the plastics carelessly dumped into the oceans by humans.

Makana means gift in the lovely Hawaiian language and is such a beautiful and fitting title for Lucy’s book. It is a reminder that nature (and life) is a gift and needs to be cherished and protected by all of us. I highly recommend Makana is a Gift for school libraries.  

Resources:  There is a Discussion & Activities Guide, links to Resources, and a list of  Books and Documentaries at the end of the story. Encourage children to draw or paint a sea turtle and the other marine life Makana meets in the ocean. If you live near a beach, plan a day to clean up the plastics you see before they reach the ocean.

Janet Lucy, MA, is the award-winning author of Mermaid Dreams/Suenos de Sirena, multi-award winning The Three Sunflowers/Lost Tres Girasoles , and co-author of Moon Mother, Moon Daughter – Myths and Rituals that Celebrate a Girl’s Coming of Age. Janet is the Director of Women’s Creative Network in Santa Barbara, California, where she is a teacher and consultant, facilitates women’s writing groups and leads international retreats. She can often be found in or near the water. Visit Janet Lucy at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a review.

The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord

The Mess That We Made

Michelle Lord, Author

Julia Blattman, Illustrator

Flashlight Press, Nonfiction, Jan. 1, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-7

Themes: Oceans, Pollution, Marine Life, Call to Action, Environmentalism

Opening: “THIS is the mess that we made.”

Synopsis:

Join four children in a little boat as they discover the magnitude of The Mess That We Made. With rhythmic language and captivating art, this cumulative tale portrays the terrible impact of trash on the ocean and marine life, inspiring us to make changes to save our seas.

Includes a back section with facts about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, ocean pollution, and Calls to Action for kids and grown‑ups to share.

Why I like this book:

Michelle Lord doesn’t shy away from showing children a realistic view of what is occuring in our oceans, particularly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But it also is an inspiring call to action for readers that is hopeful and empowering. Julia Blattman’s colorful and beautiful illustrations will capture children’s imaginations.

The snappy text is set to the familiar nursery rhyme The House That Jack Built, with each of the stanzas ending with “the mess that we made.”  First half of the books sets the scene about what is happening to the marine life that are being hurt by the plastics and trash that humans dump into the ocean. “This is the plastic, thrown away, / that traps the turtle, green and gray, / that rides the current through the bay, / that rocks the boat of welded steel, / that dumps the net, / that catches the seal, / that eats the fish / that swim in the mess that we made.” The second half enourages readers to take action, beginning with a beach clean-up day.

Lord’s has done an exceptional amount research for her educational book. Make sure you check out the back matter where she elaborates on each of the repeated phrases, describing how each animal is affected by pollution, and why plastics are particularly problematic.  At the bottom of each topic she suggests ways children can begin to make a difference: using reusable bags, disposing trash in proper recyling bins, using recyclable straws, and drinking from reusable water bottles. A third page focuses on solutions and activities. And check out the back end pages for a map of the Ocean Garbage Patches.

This may seem like a heavy topic, but it is one that children will want to get involved in. They will see the way that they can be helpful.  It deserves a place in every school library/classroom.

Resources: This is a perfect classroom book where kids can talk about the problem, take action at school and home to make sure they are helping to reduce pollution. And there are many clean-ups that take place to remove trash from beaches, rivers, lakes and  neighborhoods.  Check out the Flashlight Press website for even more resources.

Michelle Lord is the author of several books for children including Paterson Prize Honor Book A Song for Cambodia, Nature Recycles, and Animal School: What Classe are You?  She lives with her family in New Braunfels, TX.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.