If you’re looking for a way to introduce a child to the beauty of poetry, or an adult to the glory of picturebooks, Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Meilo So might just be it.
The poems are simple-seeming: elegant and eloquent, playful and irreverent by turns. The effect is impossible to resist; see, for instance, a poem addressing jellyfish which begins:
You’re not really jelly,
you’re not really fish —
you’re free-floating noodles
escaped from a dish
Another poem on the same page compares a jellyfish to a bell jar used to cover cake; another, in an evocative haiku, to a trailing kimono.
Coombs’ poems cover all ranges of ocean life, from the sand on the beach in what is one of the most quietly arresting poems here, to seagulls (like beagles, with occasional dignity), to large entities such as whales and sharks–
a quick twist of hunger
to sea turtles and octopi, to a saucy little nudibranch, which will surely delight marine biology enthusiasts, to a little fish in a school, to deep-sea denizens.
And the illustrations! Deserving of all superlatives, So’s art (watercolour, I think) is full-page and deeply evocative, pulling the reader right into that extraordinary dream-space of being in the scene and belonging there, completely secure and thoroughly enchanted.
Water Sings Blue is a book to read and reread. Highly recommended.
Pair with The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear and illustrated by Jan Brett, for another take on ocean poetry with superb illustrations, and with Wave by Suzy Lee, for a wordless picturebook in which the illustrations are the poem.