National Non-Fiction Day and the start of Picture Book Month

posted in: Steve Jenkins | 8

I’m celebrating twice over today!

Here’s in the UK it is National Non-Fiction Day, an annual celebration, initiated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups which aims to celebrate all that is brilliant about non-fiction and show that it’s not just fiction that can be read and enjoyed for pleasure.

Today is also the launch of Picture Book Month, an international literacy initiative that celebrates the printed picture book during the entire month of November.

Each day has a suggested theme (you can see the entire calendar here), and today’s theme is “Oceans”. Combining this with National Non-Fiction Day means that today I wanted to share Down, Down Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins with you.

With each turn of the page in this enlightening and fascinating book Steve Jenkins takes us deeper into the oceans. We start off at the surface, and eventually end up more than 10 km deep at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. On each spread we are introduced to 3 or 4 animals to be found in that given zone of the oceans. For example, in the Sunlit Zone we meet the Green Sea Turtle and Sailfish, amongst others, whilst in the Dark Zone the evocatively named Black Swallower and the Fangtooth are some of the creatures we are introduced to.

Jenkins’ beautiful, textured, lifelike collages are accompanied by a paragraph or two of information about life in the ocean. From these bite-sized chunks we learn about filter feeders, the importance of being soft bodied to deal with the pressure, bioluminscence, marine snow (which sounds so much more romantic than it actually is), and animals which get their energy from sulpher loving bacteria, rather than sunlight. As the pages get darker and darker, it becomes more and more exciting, and the reader/listener really does feel like an adventurous explorer.

Click image to be taken to Steven Jenkins’ website where you can view more images from Down, Down, Down.

End notes include further details and scale drawing of all the animals featured in Down, Down Down. There is also a short bibliography featuring books aimed at both adults and children.

Although events earlier this year mean that some of Jenkins’ 2009 text is slightly out of date (the bottom of the Marianas trench has now been visited twice by humans), don’t let this deter you from seeking out this exciting, informative and very attractive non-fiction picture book.

Inspired by the pages about bioluminescence, we did a bit of our own glowing and communicating in the dark. Taking this post from the Simthsonian Ocean portal as our guide we used glowsticks and long shutter releases on my camera to paint pictures of imaginary animals of the deep…

We could have spent ALL day doing this, it was so much fun. One of our very favourite book-inspired activities this year, I’d say 🙂

Music which would go well with reading Down, Down Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea includes:

  • At The Bottom Of The Sea by Ralph’s World
  • Swimming At The Bottom Of The Ocean by Geof Johnson
  • And the entire album Underwater Land – the poems of Shel Silverstein sung by Pat Dailey (here’s the official website)

  • Other activities which would go well alongside reading this book include:

  • This classroom/group activity exploring bioluminescence and how animals can identify each other at the bottom of the ocean, from the National Geographic.
  • Creating jellyfish out of paper bowls and ribbon or strips of paper. Here’s how we did this more than three years ago, but you might also find ScrapbookEtc’s tutorial inspirational.
  • Finding out what material glow in the dark at home – here’s our tutorial, which I wrote up after reading another fun book about the creatures of the deep ocean.

  • So what non-fiction picture book are you going to pull of the shelves today?

    8 Responses

    1. Zoe

      Hi Rhythm,
      The book is very lovely indeed and we had so much fun with the glow sticks – I really recommend trying to give it a go!

    2. Zoe

      Hi Polly, my camera does have a manual overide – I guess that’s essential for this. I wouldn’t call my camera posh, but it is a stand alone camera rather than either a phone or a fully automatic camera.

      Hooray Mevrouw Kinderboek! Non fiction lovers are very welcome here!

    3. Jonathan

      Thanks for the great post! Non-fiction books are such great options for readers. I think too many people write-off non-fiction as boring.

      One non-fiction ocean related book you might enjoy is T-Bot and Peabody Explore the Ocean. It’s a great story that teaches the reader about ocean life at all depths.

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