I’m excited to announce that our February book of the Month is Mama Ocean. Mama Ocean is a picture book by Jane Jolly and illustrated by Sally Heinrich. Both Jane and Sally are from South Australia.
Late last year, I came across this enchanting picture book and just fell in love with it. Sally’s artwork is mesmerising and intricate, while Jane’s words are playful, poetic and thought-provoking.
Read on to find out why I have selected this book as our book of the month.
The ocean as our mother
The narrative centres on Mama Ocean. She is cast as a bubbly and warm older lady. When she finds herself in trouble, we find ourselves wondering who will help her.
I instantly resonated with the narrative the first time I read it. It reminded me of ancient folktales and myth from various parts of the world, where the ocean was portrayed and worshipped as a mother and a goddess. One bundle of stories that instantly comes to my mind is from the Peruvian Andes. The ancient Inka believed that the ocean and the largest inland lake of the world, Lake Titiqaqa, was a goddess called Mama Qocha (see Cobo 1990 : 33–34 [Bk. 1, Chap. 7], for example). She existed before the Sun, the Moon, the stars and people. Following their ceremonial calendar, and when needed, the Inkas made offerings to the goddess and her daughters. This was done to show their love and care for them (Dunbar 2015).
The personification of the natural world can help children relate to non-human subjects. This, in turn, can support them to build meaningful relationships with their environment and guide them towards a greater sense of belonging.
Mama Ocean invites children to relate to the natural world from a place of connection, while also encouraging them to see how our actions impact it. For these reasons, I highly recommend the book.
Mama Ocean’s powerful message
This book carries a powerful and timely environmental message for children. It guides them towards understanding how littering is harmful to the environment and in particular, the ocean. This message is conveyed in a direct but charming way.
The book would be a great conversation starter at home or in the classroom. It would especially support environmental activities or units.
Vote for Mama Ocean
Mama Ocean is currently nominated for the Thalassa Park Storybook Walk, located at Aberfoyle Park, South Australia. If it wins, a character from the book will be immortalised as a sculpture and erected in the park. If you would like to learn more about the Storybook Walk and vote for Mama Ocean, please visit the Council of Onkaparinga’s website. Voting will remain open until 15 February 2021.
If you enjoy colouring in, you might like a copy of Mama Ocean colouring book now available from Sally’s Etsy Store.
Have you read the book? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook in our private group,
The Ancient Explorer’s Club.
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Cobo, B. 1990 . Inca Religion and Custom . Translated and edited by R. Hamilton. Austin: University of Texas Press.
L.A Dunbar 2015. The Taki and Metamorphosis of Tanta Karwa. PhD Dissertation, Australian National University.