Kate Coombs

Water Sings Blue | Seashells

Water Sings Blue
    Ocean Poems

written by Kate Coombs
illustrated by Meilo So

Chronicle, San Francisco 2012
ISBN-10: 081187284X / ISBN-13: 978-0811872843

Song of the Boat

Push away from the stillness of the nut-brown land,
from the road that leads to the shore.

Push away from the town with its tight tree roots,
from its closed brown shutters and doors.

Push away—heave ho—from the heavy brown pier,
from its pilings huddled and dull.

For the water sings blue and the sky does, too,
and the sea lets you fly like a gull.

Honors and Awards
  • 2013 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
    Says one judge, "All poetry is musical, but this collection really SINGS—and bellows and hums and warbles and more. Sea shanties, operas, jingles, hymns; a haiku aria here, a fishy rap there. Another great read (or sing) aloud." Another offers this praise, "I find the variety of emotions portrayed throughout the poems and amazing illustrations very appealing and appropriate. The interdependency of the sea is wonderfully depicted in the verse." And from another, "Push away from the shore with the first poem in this collection and return with the tides at the end. A dazzling collection of poems."

  • 2013 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Notable Book

  • American Library Association 2013 Notable Children's Books
    Twenty-three poems illustrated in loosely-flowing watercolors include "songs" in praise of the ocean and the life within. A memorable sea excursion.

  • Kirkus's Best Books of the Year—Children's Books, 2012

  • Wall Street Journal, Meghan Cox Gurdon's 12 Favorite Picture Books and Chapter Books of 2012
    A salty breeze seems to spring from the pages of Water Sings Blue, a lovely collection of maritime poems by Kate Coombs set amid Meilo So's exquisite watercolors of corals and sharks and surf.

  • Cybils Finalist for Poetry 2012
    Why bother with direct experience—Kate Coombs teaches me about the ocean through her poems! And what a rich and varied collection this is! I'm not going to take it to school just yet. I'm going to keep Kate nearby as a mentor author. Not only will she be teaching me about the ocean, she'll teach me about writing poetry.
    —Mary Lee Hahn

From the Publisher

Come down to the shore with this rich and vivid celebration of the ocean! With watercolors gorgeous enough to wade in by award-winning artist Meilo So and playful, moving poems by Kate Coombs, Water Sings Blue evokes the beauty and power, the depth and mystery, and the endless resonance of the sea.

From the Critics

from School Library Journal's Heavy Medal blog

Water Sings Blue...got four starred reviews and is, to my mind, the standout poetry collection of the year.
—Jonathan Hunt

from Booklist (starred review)

Varied in form and tone as well as subject, these short, precisely worded poems offer new takes on seemingly familiar subjects and subtly shift the reader's ways of seeing. So's watercolor illustrations work in tandem with the playful, evocative verse, taking key words and ideas as inspiration for brilliantly watery scenes that are sometimes brightly colored, sometimes barely tinted, but consistently well balanced and well executed.... Leaving the science to subject specialists and the research to motivated readers, this beautifully illustrated volume concentrates on what the poet does best: poetry. An excellent source of verse for reading aloud.

from School Library Journal (starred review)

PreS-Gr 4—A jaunty "Song of the Boat" opens this evocative collection designed to capture the life and spirit of the sea. The 23 pieces showcase a range of poetic forms while looking at each subject from a unique and interesting perspective. Readers do a little shopping in a tide pool, check out the local real estate with Frank Hermit, and experience the drama of a sea urchin's love story... Bookended by sandy endpapers showing footprints among feathers and shells, the loose watercolors are beautifully rendered and take readers deeper inside the heart of the verses... Closing with an ode to the tide line, this accessible collection is a trip to the beach anytime readers want to go.
Reviewer: Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA

from Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The versatile Coombs shows she's as adept at poetry as she is at concocting or adapting fairy tales (Hans My Hedgehog, 2012, etc.). She invites young readers into her celebration with an opening "Song of the Boat" and ends with the message of the "Tideline." "'Don't forget me— / I was here, / wasss h e r e / wasssss h e r e...'" Varied rhyme and rhythmic patterns and surprising connections characterize these relatively short poems, which read aloud well and stick in the memory. There's humor, interesting language and intriguing imagery, as when the Gulper Eel's "astronomical maw" is compared to a black hole. Thoughtful organization and placement of text on the page and So's wavery, watery illustrations extend the poems' meaning.... Share this admirable appreciation with a wide audience.

from Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

Coombs punctuates her sweeping, lullaby-like poems about the ocean with surprising personification and unexpected imagery. "My name's Frank Hermit," says a hermit crab, a seaside real estate agent. "I have listings for periwinkles,/ whelks, and wentletraps;/ turbans, tops, and moon shells;/ a palatial conch, perhaps?" She describes a jellyfish in short, lush lines: "Deep water shimmers./ A wind-shape passes,/ kimono trailing." So's watercolor spreads are supple and filled with life—fish cluster around the "wide green map/ on Sea Turtle's back," while a gulper eel is entwined with a dragonlike oarfish. Like the tide that repeats, "I was here,/ wasss here/ wasssss here..." the evocative descriptions and images echo and linger.

Library Media Connection (starred review)

"Personifying the inhabitants of the shore in these poems opens a new window for those who have not experienced them. This collection is a way to experience the shore without bringing home sand in your shoes."

from Wall Street Journal

[A] feeling of sweet delicacy pervades the pages of Water Sings Blue, a picture-book collection of mostly light maritime poems by Kate Coombs set amid Meilo So's exquisite watercolors. Bobbing jellyfish are "free-floating noodles, escaped from a dish"; ocean waves "whisper hush, murmur shush." But in one beautiful image, ominous shapes circle in the distance behind a bed of glowing orange corals: The shark, we read, "slides through the water / like a rumor; like a sneer. / He's a quick twist of hunger. / He's the color of fear."
Reviewer: Meghan Cox Gurdon

from Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production (a School Library Journal blog)

Next up, hellooooooo potential 2013 Caldecott contender. Or rather, 2013 Caldecott contender were it not for the small problem that the illustrator lives in the Shetland Islands. Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems is written by the illustrious Kate Coombs and illustrated by one Meilo So. In it we get some truly lovely works of poetry with lots of fun sounds (Gobble Gobble Slip Slap) and the occasional Gulper Eel. I'm looking forward to this one.


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