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Book review: Ocean poems evoke beauty and power of the sea in picture book

"WATER SINGS BLUE: Ocean Poems," by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So, Chronicle Books, $16.99 (nf) (ages 4-8)

From “Song of the Boat” (“Push away from the stillness of the nut-brown land..”) to “The Tideline” (“Ocean draws on the sand…”), Kate Coombs’ ocean poems emit a lilt and true resonance of sea life. No forced rhyming here, only the rhythmic push and pull of tides slapping on the beach, sea birds circling overhead, creatures caught in a tide pool and water embracing denizens of the deep.

In “What Waves Say,” action words leave a remembrance of ocean mist as they, “whisper hush/murmur shush/swell and sigh/otter lullaby.”

In a clever parody, Frank Hermit lists houses available for settlement, however, “That one’s not available/I’m waiting for the snail/to vacate his townhouse/and put it up for sale.”

Sea turtles, whales and jellyfish abound in rhythm. Then numerous less-familiar sea creatures are incorporated into free verse, limericks and couplets. While readers may not identify gobies, limpets and wentletraps, Coombs gives hints that make perfect sense. There’s trust in a poet whose many ocean aquarium visits are basis for her poems.

Meilo So’s masterful watercolor paintings are perfect backdrops for this poetry collection. Washes of blue — of course — are accented with nature’s tones and spiked by touches of striped fish, filigree coral and dull driftwood. One delightful surprise is “Octopus Ink,” a full-page black splat where “He autographs the water/with a single word … goodbye!”

“Water Sings Blue” will be a fun accompaniment to local aquarium visits and summer vacations: ”For the water sings blue and the sky does, too/and the sea lets you fly like a gull.”

IF YOU GO ....

What: Kate Coombs book signing

When: Saturday, March 17, 11 a.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City