Star of the Sea
by Janet Halfmann

Price at time of review: $16.99
32 pp.
Henry Holt and Company, LLC
New York, NY
ISBN: 9780805090734

Grade Level: K-3

Reviewed by Coralee Smith
Associate Professor Elementary Education and Reading

Starfishes have captured the imaginations of young scientists who have been to a beach or to an aquarium forever. My nine-year-old granddaughter (who has never seen one in the wild) once asked, “Is a starfish a make-believe creature or a real animal? What do they do? How and where do they live? How can they move, or hide, and what or how do they eat? Can a star fish lose parts of its body and still live? I need to know more!” Those questions and more are accurately addressed in this book.

The book presents information in an easy-to-read format with striking illustrations. It's sure to be a hit with people who have asked such questions about starfishes or those just finding out about them. The book’s narration is full of descriptive phrases that paint a minds-eye picture of the daily life of a starfish in its natural environment. For example, “Beneath the crashing waves, another kind of star clings to the rocks with hundreds of sticky tube feet." The words set the stage for the visual imagery of the life of a starfish. The illustrations show the large view of a starfish as well as close-up images of its tube feet. The blend of words and art provides young readers with accurate scientific information and will inspire wonder in their minds.

In addition, the predator/prey relationships of starfishes are presented ways that express the ebb and flow of their natural environment without being frightening. For example, when a seagull “swoops down and snatches her,” the seagull merely bites through one of her rays and then the starfish lives on in the ocean waiting for her lost ray to grow back. One of the most interesting parts of the book, to my granddaughter, was the part about how a starfish eats by extending its stomach out of its mouth into a mussel’s body for food. She said, “I didn’t even know enough to ask about that until I read this book! I am amazed!”

This book could easily be used as a teacher/parent read-aloud experience before or after a trip to a beach or aquarium to view starfishes. It could also be read by that questioning person who just has all of those questions or someone whose interest in starfishes has just begun. The additional information in the Amazing Sea Stars part of the book adds to the basic understanding of starfishes for those who want to know more... and more! This section of the book is like an information database of the lives of starfishes. The Find Out More section even has a website that shows a video of the sea star’s tube feet and the stomach emerging from its mouth. In short, this book is limitless for those who are intrigued by sea stars. It definitely answers the question of whether or not a starfish a real animal. The answer is "Yes, and here is why."

Review posted on 8/4/2011

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