Who Needs a Reef?

By Karen Patkau

Karen Patkau’s Who Needs a Reef? is part of a six-book series on ecosystems. The series, in its entirety, cover an impressive variety of habitats. As I write this, it’s another cold, snowy winter day. Therefore, I’m most curious about Who Needs an Iceburg? because I’m pretty sure Fairfax County is about to turn into one. (Perhaps she has some good advice to dole out to us frozen Virginians!)

In this book, Patkau’s stated goal is to educate kids on coral reefs—from formation to why everyone needs one. After reading the book with my second grader, it seems the focus is to simply describe what happens on any given day in a coral reef. There are a few heavily educational sentences here and there about how a coral reef is formed, what the food chain is, and how a coral reef protects the shoreline. Yet most of the book is a long list of what lives in and around a reef.

The book points out how living things in a coral reef each have a purpose that links it to others in its underwater environment. Yet it lacks examples of this, and without those little side stories highlighting specific species or a particularly interesting relationship, I fear most kids won’t retain much. Patkau missed the opportunity to use metaphors and examples and draw examples or parallels from kids’ daily lives in order to help them understand this amazing ecosystem that most kids will probably never see with their own eyes.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that Who Needs a Reef? sits squarely between two very large groups of environmental books for children. On the one hand, there are books that offer a ton of fascinating, detailed, slightly esoteric data about coral reefs and ocean life that satisfy the most curious little oceanographer. On the other hand, there are picture books that draw out a single vignette of this vast undersea existence and help kids connect to just one tiny part of a reef. Yet this book is neither, and I think that decreases its value.

I have to end on a good note, though, because the illustrations are worthy of mention. Each page holds an enormous, vividly colored illustration that is both captivating and inviting. The pictures grabbed my daughter’s attention instantly, and she sat with the book, studying the illustrations, almost jumping into the reef from the comfort of her favorite reading spot on our sofa.

I would not buy this book, but I’m glad that my kids found a warm, bright respite from this cold, gray winter we’re having in the illustrations of Who Needs a Reef? I am confident there will be other kids, probably younger than the targeted age group (7 to 10 years), who are similarly entranced by the illustrations. Hopefully they’ll be inspired to learn even more about our reefs and the rest of the incredibly ecosystems on this shared earth of ours.

Publisher: Tundra Books

URL: www.tundrabooks.com

Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million!

MSRP: approximately $16

Ages: 7-10 years

Readability 3

Illustrations 4

Kept My Children’s Interest 3

Appealed to Advertised Age  3

I Would Purchase for My Child No

I Would Purchase as a Gift  No

Overall Rating 3

All ratings on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).

Meet the Reviewer!

Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom and wife living in Great Falls, VA. In addition to being a reader to her three small children, Kate is a writer, distance runner, Crossfitter, and blogger of raising kids with books at www.katesbookery.blogspot.com.


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