Seahorse – the Shyest Fish in the Sea by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by John Lawrence

Chris Butterworth lives in Penwith and loves the sea and the amazing things that live in it. “A seahorse looks as magical as a mermaid” she says, ”but while mermaids are made up, seahorses really exist.” This informative and well-designed children’s book was written with the expert advice of Colin Wells of the National Aquarium inPlymouth. The seahorse or in Latin “Hippocampus” (horse-like sea monster) is a very unusual type of fish whose tenuous existence depends upon a curious kind of gender swap. It is the male seahorse that has a pouch in which the young grow to maturity whilst his wife wanders the territory further away from home. Dad has to keep squeezing and pushing out all the little delicate seahorses all day long, and by night there may be hundreds of them! The seahorse is a light and tiny creature, who can only cope with gentle undercurrents. The movement motions are delightfully described, as are the various devices by which the little creature has evolved to avoid its predators. The text, in a gentle manner, encourages a tolerant attitude towards nature and a sense of the urgency for conservation as well as respect for marine ecology.

The illustrator, John Lawrence, has produced a fine series of dark and subtle coloured images that show the intriguing variety of life forms under the sea. This includes the variegated changes of tone during the mating dance of the seahorses. This is a well-crafted and informative book, which could be taken out and read again and again with pleasure.

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