Review Blog

Dec 22 2016

The twelve underwater days of Christmas by Kim Michelle Toft

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Silkim Books, 2007. ISBN 9780975839041 hbk, ISBN 9780975839034 pbk.
Take the traditional Christmas song, add the most magnificent creatures of the world's oceans, include important information about those creatures and immerse the whole in the beautiful painted silk artworks of Kim Michelle Toft and you have, quite simply, my most favourite Christmas book ever!
Toft has used the words of 'The twelve days of Christmas' not only to introduce readers to the dwellers of the deep, but has also built on the traditional concept of gift-giving at this time to emphasise what a precious present these creatures are - one that we may not enjoy for much longer if we don't start to value it now.
'All of the magnificent creatures in this book rely on the ocean for their survival and many were once found in abundance. This is no longer true. Modern technology, huge increases in the world's population and lack of management have resulted in some serious problems. These problems include over fishing, pollution from poorly treated sewage, effluents from oil spills, litter and global warming which is contributing to the destruction of coral reefs all around the world. It is up to nations, governments and the will of the people to work together to help conserve these incredible gifts from nature.'
Thus, as well as being a stunning visual feast, there is a serious message that can be emphasised, enabling this book to sit well within any sustainability curriculum. Even though students might not be able to replicate the artworks which are hand drawn with gold gutta on white silk then painted with brushes using silk dyes, the concept itself might inspire a class project of those things in the local region that might disappear if no action to preserve them is taken.
At the end of the book is an amazing poster containing all the creatures mentioned, and some versions have a CD of Toft's lyrics sung by Lisa Hunt. What a wonderful song to add to the Christmas repertoire.
Toft always writes and illustrates about her passion - the preservation of ocean life - and you can see all her publications online.
She is one who must have a place on your library's shelves - school or home.
Barbara Braxton

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