How The Sea Came To Be Reviews

“Geology, oceanography, biology, and 4.5 billion years of evolution—in quatrains.

Riveting illustrations and text depict the shaping of Earth’s surface, the formation of seas, and the emergence of life and complex biodiversity. In four-line “ballad” stanzas (four-beat, mostly iambic, alternating with three-beat, mostly anapestic, lines) that will make for a rollicking read-aloud, Berne traces the surprising steps from molten lava to teeming organisms. It might seem unlikely that verse could convey eons of dramatic development with scientific accuracy, but that happens here—with very few slips of rhyme or meter. And as impressive as Berne’s achievement is, it is gloriously overshadowed by Hall’s luminous art, rendered in watercolor, gouache, pencil crayon, pastel, and digital materials. Microscopic, tiny, merely big, or gigantic, the life forms Hall painstakingly depicts are neon, candy-colored, or pale; smooth, ribbed, or spiky, but always stunning. Capricious as fantasy but true to nature’s incredible reality, they are imaginatively displayed and vividly or subtly tinted. The sea creatures are not labeled, but by looking closely readers can find all that are mentioned—and there are extensive resources for further exploration.

An ode to undersea life with visuals that beg to be animated, just as the text begs to be sung. (author’s and illustrator’s notes, ocean creatures over time, key terms and concepts, recommended resources, selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-10)”

—Kirkus * Starred Review — Link


“Covering billions of years of Earth’s history, Berne skillfully traces the origins and evolution of the oceans and oceanic life through poetic rhyming text, sparing readers from excessive jargon while allowing millenia to fly by. The text alone is excellent, but pushing the book into the realm of extraordinary are Hall’s enveloping watercolor, gouache, pencil, pastel, and digital illustrations. From scenes of dark volcanic origins to the stormy gray-flooded seas, the pages convey the excitement and volatile climate of a very young Earth. Once life enters the picture, readers are transported into an Escheresque world of seemingly alien early life forms. Eventually, the book arrives at an ocean life familiar to most readers, but Hall treats them to a vision that requires them to turn the book vertically to truly understand the depths that deep-sea creatures inhabit. Very detailed end notes and further resources provide a good jumping-off point for more ocean exploration. VERDICT From the moment readers open this book and see its beautiful, frenetic endpapers, it’s clear they are in for a fantastic journey into the depths of the ocean. A first-purchase for all collections.”

—Kadie Seitz/ School Library Journal * Starred Review — Link


Jennifer Berne possesses a tremendous gift for sharing the wonders of nonfiction with young readers. Whether she’s introducing them to Emily Dickinson (On the Wings of Words) or sparking curiosity about Albert Einstein (On a Beam of Light), she expertly reels them into a world they perhaps never expected to love. How the Sea Came to Be is no different. The rich, rhythmic language of Berne’s subaquatic exploration is as powerful as her imposing subject. When the stunning verse is experienced alongside the striking art from Amanda Hall (Out of This World), the reading experience is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Berne’s words conjure detailed imagery: “Earth sizzled and simmered for millions of years. It bubbled and burbled and hissed.” This text, paired with Hall’s brilliantly colored and textured mixed-media illustrations, allows the audience to discover the ocean’s evolution in an almost magical environment. The collaboration is divided into three parts: “the birth of the sea,” “the birth of life” and “all that the sea came to be.” Author and illustrator first explore the rage and violence of nature through storms and eruptions then delve into the miracle of teeny tiny life forms emerging, developing and populating the watery world. “There were ribbed and frilled creatures that wriggled and crawled… There were round jellyfish that drifted and squished.” Each page offers readers a vivid microcosm to probe and absorb.

Once readers arrive at the current state of the ocean, Berne explains the layers of aquatic life. “In the deep midnight zone, there live fish in the dark with huge jaws and long, sharp, pointy teeth. There they sit in the black, as they wait for the food that drifts down to their world far beneath.” Hall’s double-page illustration must be turned 90 degrees to see the layers described–the length of the landscape format turned on its side allows the audience to appreciate the abundance of life that exists at the varying depths.
Berne and Hall bring readers back to the surface, exploring multitudes of creatures during the ascent and imparting wonderful tidbits and colorful imagery: “beware toothy sharks, barracudas, and eels, a ferocious and dangerous crowd./ …/ See the tiny seahorse, hear the porpoise’s song, full of tales of the sea that it sings.” The pair conclude their journey through space and time on the present-day shores of the ocean. This breathtaking tour then wraps with a treasure trove of additional resources readers can mine about organisms, terms, time periods and more. How the Sea Came to Be should captivate young scientists, historians and wordsmiths alike. It has the potential to create converts as well. This beautiful picture book is a prize addition to any library.

—Jen Forbus/Shelf Awareness (March 15 2023) * Starred Review — Link


“Art by Amanda Hall | Travel back to the beginning of time and to the bottom of the sea in this captivating journey with vivid art and engaging verse that chronicles how life in our oceans has evolved over time.”

—NYPL Best Books of 2023 list – Link


“Boy, you could make an amazing list of books discussing the early beginnings of life this year if you really wanted to. Consider a unit that included this book and We Go Way Back by Idan Ben-Barak (found later on this list). In this case, Hall leans hard into depicting the beauty of an early Earth, forming out of heat and explosions. The watercolor, gouache, pencil crayon, pastels, and digital materials really do a marvelous job of bringing that boiling, hissing and then cooling and raining world to life. Here the tiny stirrings of life are depicted as white against a variety of different kinds of blue. Further on, the colors just pop on the page, looking strange and wonderful and alien. Extra points for a gatefold backmatter (never seen THAT before!) depicting a kind of pie chart, sorta, of the eons from Hadean to Cenozoic. Not to say that the rest of the backmatter (and it’s a LOT) isn’t great too. It’s just an original way of tackling a subject that needs little creativity on the page to make it pop.” 

— Betsy Bird/ Fuse8School Library Journal –Link


“With an engaging, child-friendly ABCB rhyme scheme, Berne shares the fascinating 4.5 billion-year history of the seas and its inhabitants. Starting out when the earth was a fiery mass with no water, Berne recounts how rains fell to the earth as it cooled, creating oceans “all over the world.” From there, she shows how the “teeniest, tiniest stirrings of life” multiplied in the oceans and how they evolved into more complex life forms, including jellyfish, worms, and creatures with “the very first feet.”

In the final third of How the Seas Came to Be, Berne explores the seas from the surface warmed by the sun to the far depths, showing eager readers the fascinating creatures that dwell in each ecosystem.

Berne’s detailed descriptions combined with Hall’s luminous illustrations of these creatures are a true treat for lovers of oceans and the life that inhabits them. Particularly stunning are the spreads showing creatures inhabiting the darkest depths set against a black background and a scene filled with reef dwellers in their bright, multi-colored finery. In her Illustrator’s Note, Hall shares her life-long fascination with natural history and informs readers that multiple trips to the Natural History Museum in London and the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, England, informed her illustrations, which were vetted for accuracy by the Principal Researcher at the Natural History Museum.

Informative Back Matter completes this stunning picture book. How the Seas Came to Be should be in every elementary school classroom and library, and it’s also a welcome addition to home bookshelves. Note that the recommended age range is a bit older than the average picture book, however, I think the rhyming text and detailed illustrations will draw in younger sea lovers, too.”

—Patricia Nozell/ Wander, Ponder, Write —Link


“Oh, the oceans they shimmer with such wondrous lives!
Our mysterious, beautiful sea
where so long, long ago, in the far distant past,
the first glimmers of life came to be.
Imagine a leisurely stroll along the beach, waves crashing on the shore, the ebb and flow calming, hypnotic, rejuvenating. Looking out at the horizon, you marvel at the crystalline water’s sweeping expanse, in awe of its magic and mystery.
Is there a nearby tide pool to explore? Will you be lucky enough to spot a starfish, baby octopus, hermit crab or sea urchin? What about colorful sea anemones, pesky barnacles, limpets, mussels or snails? This fascinating ecosystem teeming with marine life is but a microcosm of the world’s vast, ancient oceans — oceans where life on earth began billions of years ago. 
With dynamic lyrical verse and breathtakingly beautiful art, Jennifer Berne and Amanda Hall tell the greatest evolutionary tale ever told in their magnificent new picture book, How the Sea Came To Be: And All the Creatures In It (Eerdmans BFYR, 2023). Their captivating account unfolds in three parts: The Birth of the Sea, The Birth of Life, and All That the Sea Came To Be . . . From Then to Now.
They first take us back some 4.5 billion years, when our very young planet was a fiery, volatile entity with molten lava exploding from within, comets and asteroids crashing down from the sky. The sizzling and simmering, bubbling and burbling continued for millions of years until the Earth finally began to ever-so-slowly cool.

As the Earth gradually solidified — heaving, puckering, wrinkling and bulging — mountains grew and “valleys dipped deep.” Steamy hot clouds rose up and encircled the world, and for the very first time, rains began to fall. It rained and rained for thousands of years, “down the mountains,” “down the rocks, washing salt to the water below.” It rained the first oceans all over the world, and “that was the birth of the sea.”

When sunlight shone onto “the face of the Earth,” (this “planet of watery blue”), a miracle occurred:

Then something amazing, unseen, and so new
appeared in this shining blue sea . . . 
The teeniest, tiniest stirrings of life
came to be, in the sea, came to be.

Though smaller than small, and adrift in the seas,
one became two became four.
For millions of years these first bits of life
became more, and then more, and then more.

Bit by bit, with a “little twist here” and a “little change there” these teeny microorganisms gradually grew bigger, wider, and longer, rearranging themselves into exciting new forms. Some of these creatures were ribbed and frilled, wiggling and crawling on the ocean floor, while others, soft and spongy clusters clinging to rocks, sucked water to eat. There were jellyfish trailing tentacle threads “That would stick and would sting, and would capture the food floating by.”

In time there came a new shape — the worm — with a head in the front and a tail on the back, followed by more complex creatures with hard armored shells, the very first feet, claws, antennae and teeth “to fight for the foods that they eat.”

So to the ocean came all kinds of life —
fantastic, surprising, and new.
Step by step, bit by bit, they evolved in the sea,
And life grew, and life changed, and life grew.

Marine life continued to grow and spread for hundreds of millions of years across the ocean’s surface to its deepest darkest depths. In the midnight zone lived fish “in the dark with huge jaws and long, sharp, pointy teeth.” Just above that in the twilight zone, fish were able to flash lights with their mouths, heads or tails to “trap creatures in search of a meal.” 

But it was in the bright sunlit zone where most sea life flourished:

Every ocean is flowing with all kinds of life,
every shape, every size, every scale —
from the small shrimp-like plankton, too tiny to see,
to the mighty, gigantic blue whale.

Here are the aquatic animals we are most familiar with, an awe-inspiring showcase of incredible biodiversity, from flounders, squid, sharks, barracudas, and eels; to catfish, cowfish, lampreys and clams. 

How the Sea Came To Be is an excellent introduction to geology, oceanography and marine biology for budding scientists and nature lovers. Berne and Hall have done an outstanding job of describing the formation of the earth’s surface, the origin of oceans, and the evolution of life with enthusiasm and aplomb. They’ve distilled the essence of evolutionary theory — a complex, daunting subject — and made it clear and accessible for readers of all ages. 

It is obvious both have gone above and beyond with their research. What I especially appreciate is the blending of scientific fact and accuracy with beauty and aesthetics. It would have been challenging enough for Berne to share this information in engaging, kid-friendly prose. But riveting rhyming quatrains that beg to be read aloud? Wow. 

She succeeds at not only skillfully incorporating critical facts in each stanza, but in giving readers a good sense of how the stages of evolution hinge on time. It is hard for any of us to comprehend “billions of years,” but here, we can begin to envision its scope. Her powerful words open the mind, invite curiosity, and will leave readers with a proper sense of awe.

Amanda Hall’s work is new to me, and it would not be an exaggeration to describe her illustrations with a host of superlatives: exquisite, gorgeous, spectacular, evocative, dazzling. She created her magic with a combination of watercolor inks, gouache, pastel, pencil crayon, and opaque white paint followed by digital layering.

One can feel the explosive power of fiery molten lava, the tremendous energy of Earth birthing itself as it crumples and puckers, steam clouds rising as in a primordial fantasy. One can practically hear the torrents of rain as they thunder down to the Earth unbridled and relentless. 

How fascinating to see those first alien-looking life-forms in an array of shapes, colors and textures! We get a sense of being present for monumental moments as new species emerge with each page turn, every picture brimming with fascinating details, eliciting wonder.

Kids will especially enjoy the vertical spread showing odd deep-sea creatures with their special bioluminescent colors glowing against an inky dark background. They’ll also have fun identifying some of their favorite ocean friends near the end of the book (coral, octopus, cod, scallops, rays, sailfish, lobsters, whales).

Extensive backmatter includes an Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, a six-panel gatefold spread (“Ocean Creatures Over Time”), a glossary of Key Terms and Concepts, a slew of recommended references (books, videos, web pages) and a bibliography.

In her note, Berne reminds us that the “Earth’s oceans are more than seventy percent of our planet’s surface, and ninety-nine percent of all the living space on our planet,” yet “less than ten percent of our ocean’s space has been explored by humans.”

To date, about 236,000 marine species have been identified, with millions more to be found. Life in the sea is a topic of endless fascination and mystery, with exploration and discovery ongoing, especially exciting in light of modern technology and innovative methods of study and research. Informative, interesting, brilliantly conceived and executed, How the Sea Came To Be is welcome inspiration for tomorrow’s oceanographic pioneers.

–Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup –Link


“Author Jennifer Berne and artist Amanda Hall celebrate our footholds of knowledge amid the mystery in How the Sea Came to Be (And All the Creatures In It) (public library) — a singsong chronicle of how Earth went from roiling rock to living wonderland, pulsating with the elemental poetry of nature.”

–Maria Popova/ The Marginalian December 2023 – Link


–Ryan’s Review of the Writing– “Jennifer Berne’s new picture book, How the Sea Came to Be, is an evocative and captivating exploration into Earth’s aquatic history. The storytelling (divided into three parts—The Birth of the Sea, The Birth of Life, and All That the Sea Came To Be) combines elements of geology, oceanography, biology, and evolution. Written in rhyming verse quatrains, the narrative is as much a lyrical journey as it is an educational resource, offering readers an overview of over 4.5 billion years of oceanic history. Yeah, that’s a lot of room to cover, and she manages it on in a robust 56 pages.

The vivid imagery created by the text grips from the outset, with descriptions that bring to life the primal chaos of the earth’s formative years. I’m also a fan of how Berne goes beyond rhyming to include alliteration (“They blazed and they blasted and boomed”) that add to the meter (mostly iambic) which makes this a fun read-aloud.

Accompanying Berne’s textual journey are Amanda Hall’s mixed media illustrations. I’ll let Loreen dive deeper into those (like the watery pun?), but I find them to be integral components of the learning journey, adding richness to the storytelling. The layout of each spread invites exploration and appreciation, with the varied marine life forms being depicted in their natural, multi-layered aquatic habitats. I wish there were clearer labels directly on the art, but most of what’s shown is either in the main text or the extensive back matter. The full-page notes from both creators, glossary, full-spread chart of “Ocean Creatures Over Time,” and recommended readings and resources adds an extra layer of depth (is that another ocean pun?) that will no doubt be a welcome addition for the home school and classroom market.

It’s a challenge to simplify and present complex scientific concepts in a way that’s both accessible and engaging to young readers. For the most part, that’s what happens here. Ultimately, this picture book inspires curiosity and invites questions about our world’s natural history, making it a solid resource for young scientists or anyone with a keen interest in the marine world. 4.5 out of 5 pencils”

–Loreen’s Review of the Illustrations– “The rhyming text and impressive illustrations in this nonfiction book present a whirlwind tour of the earth’s oceans from the earliest moments in prehistory up to the present day. Colorfully complex endpapers give a sneak peek of the visual delights to come. Every page invites readers to explore the vastly different environments that once existed (or still exist) on our planet.

Earth’s early period of cosmic bombardment and erupting volcanoes appear in dramatic compositions of orange, black, and white. Monochromatic scenes depict a cooling, rainy world with brand new oceans full of crashing waves. Life begins microscopically small yet with pulsating energy, pictured as tiny circles/cells that expand into more numerous and complex forms. Soon, simple but more recognizable animals such as sponges and jellyfish cling to rocks or float in the salty waters.

A delightful close-up view of a worm wriggling along the ocean floor conveys an important milestone in the history of life: the ability to travel in a desired direction. Hard-shelled arthropods scuttle and swim through a viridian and magenta frieze. One illustration requires a 90-degree turn of the book to explore the dark depths of the sea where unusual, even glowing creatures dwell. Each spread moves forward in time as cephalopods, fish, reptiles, and whales wander the seven seas in their turn.

The animals are drawn and painted in a lightly stylized, realistic way with a hint of friendly charm. Technical jargon is avoided in the main text, while the back matter provides additional in-depth information such as an illustrated fold-out chart of geological eras. Curiously, plants are not mentioned despite their vital role in the food chain. Aside from that quibble, this is a terrific book to engage young readers in learning about major ocean-related developments in prehistory. The beautifully designed artwork is outstanding throughout with numerous details for young readers to examine and enjoy. 4.5 out of 5 crayons”

—Only Picture Books /owner Ryan G. Van Cleave & author/illustrator Loreen Leedy — Link


“Berne’s (On Wings of Words, rev. 5/20) history of Earth’s oceans and the evolution of marine life is presented as a poem in three parts: the formation of the oceans from Earth’s early volcanic and atmospheric activity; the first emergence of life within the oceans; and the diversification of life in the seas to what we see today. The rhyming stanzas are impressive, filled with words and cadences that are entertaining to read aloud, and yet also precise in conveying scientific concepts about geological and biological processes. “So to the ocean came all kinds of life — / fantastic, surprising, and new. / Step by step, bit by bit, they evolved in the sea. / And life grew, and life changed, and life grew.” Hall’s (Out of This World, rev. 3/19) mixed-media illustrations balance creative use of color and scientific accuracy: portraying the fiery black and orange landscapes of the young planet, the steamy grays and whites of the emerging ocean waters, and then the beautiful blues of the ocean across millions of years and down hundreds of meters. Extensive back matter includes notes from the author and illustrator on their research, detailed profiles of some of the species featured in the illustrations, additional resources and terminology, and a creative foldout timeline of Earth’s history that is linked thematically to the concepts and illustrations in the book”

—Danielle J. Ford / The Horn Book Inc. —Link


“This delightful informational picture book takes readers on a visually appealing journey that explains the evolution of our oceans over 4.5 billions years.

Each double-page spread includes Hall’s spectacular illustrations that are paired beautifully with Berne’s captivating verse.
“Billions and billions of years long ago,
when the Earth was young and new,
the world was so hot, rock melted and boiled,
and fiery, wild winds blew.”

Included is a note from the author and illustrator, a look at ocean creatures over time that also includes a brief explanation of each creature, key terms and concepts, and resources.

“Oh, so long, long ago,
in the far distant past,
the first life came to be
in the sea.”

This engrossing journey will whet readers appetite for more facts about how Earth began and all the creatures inhabiting it.”

—The Nonfiction Detectives  — Link


“HOW THE SEA CAME TO BE: AND ALL THE CREATURES IN IT, masterfully written by Jennifer Berne and beautifully illustrated by Amanda Hall, is a lyrical read-aloud that parents and teachers do not want to miss. This 56-page picture book published by W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, is a perfect introduction to geology, oceanography, and marine biology for ages 6 to 10. Berne’s ballad-style informational nonfiction tells the amazing story of the ocean’s evolution and its biodiversity today. It absolutely sings.”

—Joyce Uglow / Inking My Thinking (rated 5 of 5 stars) — Link


​”Jennifer Berne’s rhyming picture book How the Sea Came to Be is an educational and concise explanation of how the ocean and its marine life formed.

Chronicling 4.5-billion years of terrestrial evolution, beginning from stages of molten rock with volcanoes that “bubbled and burbled and hissed” and following along as clouds and constant rain cooled the planet and created “oceans all over the world,” this is the story of how Earth became a “salty sea world … where every ocean [flows] with all kinds of life.” Delightful, lilting quatrains appear on each page, complemented by dazzling artwork depicting dolphins, octopuses, sea turtles, and jellyfish swimming in cerulean waters. Flounder flatten themselves against a mossy-green ocean floor as seaweed sways with the current; lobsters, shrimp, and mollusks crawl and swim among floating plankton in purple and minty-blue underwater scenes. Elsewhere, luminescent fish hunt for prey in a black and lightless sea.

An accessible introduction to marine biology, oceanography, earth science, and geology, the book includes an appreciable quantity of educational material. A timeline details Earth’s geological history, and an illustration depicts diverse organisms from a variety of eons and eras. A catalog of ocean science readings, videos, and web pages; a glossary of keywords; and recommended museums and aquariums make this volume an excellent resource too.

Nearly three-quarters of Earth’s life occupies the oceans, and less than ten percent of that living space has been explored by human beings. Millions of aquatic life forms have yet to be discovered. Berne enthuses that the next generation of scientists will discover more of the Earth “than all previous generations combined — and that’s you!”

How the Sea Came to Be is an illuminating, impactful, and inspiring science text for budding ocean-related scientists and natural history enthusiasts.”

—Amy O’Loughlin / Foreword Reviews (May/June 2023) — Link


“How the Sea Came To Be (And All the Creatures In It) by Jennifer Berne and Amanda Hall (Eerdmans Books, 2023) is a wonderful new title that needs to be in STEM classrooms and school libraries. Written in three parts, this poetic journey through time tells how the “sea came to be – and all the creatures in it.” Jennifer Berne and Amanda Hall use poetry, colorful pictures, surprising page layouts, and bunches of backmatter to encourage children to observe, discover, and research our past and plan for our future. This picture book is gorgeous and interesting — readers will fall in love with the ocean and all the organisms in it. Teachers will love the glimpse at the eons and captioned notes about animals most of us have never heard of before. There are pages of key terms and concepts that dig deeper, yet are accessible to students. Recommended readings and more fill the end of the book, leading to a lifelong commitment to joyful exploration and care of our earth’s oceans.”

—Reading Teacher Writes (27/3/2023) —Link 


“A lyrical, spectacular history of the ocean—from its dramatic evolutionary past to its marvelously biodiverse present.”

Google Books


“Dive into the spectacular and striking origins of our ocean in the riveting and remarkable, “How the Sea Came to Be,” written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Amanda Hall 🌊

Told in three separate sections, this nonfiction picture book begins when the earth was newly formed, followed by the first signs of life, before discussing the oceans of today. Each gorgeous spread contains lilting quatrains that charts the progress through millenia 🦐

Berne successfully manages to convey eons of evolution, science, and biology in language that is both beautifully lyrical and wonderfully informative 🐚 Each and every spread is stunningly illustrated beyond description, from the molten lava when the earth was new to the rich, jewel tones of the countless species of aquatic life 🐠 Accompanying back matter is a wealth of information, including notes from the author and illustrator, supplemental facts about ocean creatures over time, a foldout timeline, key terms and concepts, as well as recommended reading and resources for young readers 📝 

A marvelous marine masterpiece 🐙”

—oliviathelibrarian /Instagram —Link


“How the Sea Came to Be Jennifer Berne Illustrated by Amanda Hall. The sea has a deeply fascinating origin story to dive into within this poetic nonfiction picture book. The journey begins billions of years ago, when the earth was a molten hot inferno bombarded by explosions and asteroids. In playful rhyming text, the timeline moves on to the early days of the sea and the emergence of life, venturing from prehistoric organisms to modern day creatures. Each section is defined by specific headings, such as “The Birth of the Sea,” or “The Birth of Life.” Numerous animals splash across the pages, from mysterious invertebrates to familiar fish and mammals. Readers will want to return repeatedly to examine the details on the pages depicting the diversity of sea life. The poetic language makes this book a very pleasurable read that additionally teaches great deal of information while avoiding a didactic approach. The back of the book includes a timeline, key terms, notes, and a thorough list of additional sources. This entertaining and informative book will encourage readers to take the plunge into further explorations of aquatic life.”

—Children’s Literature, Spring 2023


“Summary:  Rhyming quatrains describe the history of the sea in three parts: the birth of the sea, the birth of life, and the sea from then until now.  All are accompanied by colorful illustrations that sometimes show the sun-dappled waters of the sea and other times take readers down into the black ocean depths.  Includes notes from the author and illustrator; two pages of ocean creatures that include illustrations and a paragraph of information about each; a four-panel gatefold timeline showing seven eras of the Earth’s history; key terms and concepts with definitions; and two pages of additional resources. 56 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  A spectacular nonfiction book that should be considered for a Sibert award.  The rhyming text is both catchy and impressive, making this a great choice to read aloud, and the illustrations are truly spectacular, conveying both the powerful forces that created the seas and the incredible diversity of life within them.  The timeline is a masterpiece, and the rest of the back matter makes this an excellent resource for research.

Cons:  I would have liked the timeline to have also been incorporated into the text to show the eras of each of the three parts.”

—Janet Dawson / kidsbookaday —Link


“How the Sea Came to Be, by Jennifer Berne with illustrations by Amanda Hall is a fascinating account of the oceans’ first things. The rhymes on each page evoke the evolving process from fiery beginnings to today’s great oceans. Creatures abound in this imaginative, scientifically accurate and lively, informative book. Pictures and text come alive through aeons of change. A helpful bibliography will make young people eager to care for the planet. A great book for children and grownups alike.”

—Amazon / David C. King * Starred Review —Link


“I know I usually share books about people and cultures from around the world, but I’m also always looking for books that showcase what people around the world all share. One of the things we can all get excited about is the world’s oceans. We may not all live near the same one, but the world’s seas are all connected.

A poetic, scientific ode to the world’s seas, How the Sea Came to Be: And All the Creatures in It, beautifully showcases the history of the oceans beginning when the world was new and ending in the present day. Readers journey through time watching as the planet cools and life begins to stir, ultimately morphing into the creatures we find in the world’s seas today.

Brilliant, scientifically accurate, rhyming stanzas manage to convey a staggering amount of information in few words. It’s rare to find a nonfiction book that is such a joy to read aloud. Extensive back matter extends what is in the main text and includes a visual timeline, key terms, and bibliography.

Using color, tone, and page orientation, the illustrator is able to immerse readers in the different geological time periods and ocean zones discussed in the text.

This is a book that will definitely be traveling to the beach with us this summer and for many summers to come.

This book was sent to me by the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.”

—Kids Read the World —Link


“How the Sea Came to Be is an exploration of primordial evolution. In rhyming verse, Jennifer Berne begins with a burning, volcanic earth that over millions of years cools and builds up steam that finally builds into clouds that cause the torrential rains that carved out the seas. From there, it turns to the birth of life in the sea, from single-celled organisms to more complex and colorful lifeforms, to sentient life. The third part of the book details how, over the millions of years that followed, the sea gave birth to life on land even as more complex and multi-faceted creatures began to grow.

The final pages of the book are a note from the author and illustrator detailing the research that went into their work. Often, I think, readers imagine the illustrator as simply drawing what the author writes, but it is much more complex than that. Illustrator Amanda Hall recounts how she reached out to experts in the field and visited museums to get an idea of how to bring the primordial world to life. There’s an elaborate fold-out panel that offers an overview of ocean creatures over time before How the Sea Came to Be concludes with a glossary and recommended reading for future research.

How the Sea Came to Be is stunningly illustrated. Hall captures the brilliance and variance of ocean life throughout the millennia in a way that is eye-catching and captivating. Berne’s lyrical text provides a clear and simple explanation of the evolutionary process. Moving complex and hypothetical science into clear and concise terms isn’t always easy. Berne and Hall helped me envision evolutionary theory more clearly than I ever had before.

As you might have guessed, this book is a thoroughly secular science book. Even though Eerdman’s publishes Christian non-fiction, its children’s imprint publishes books for both religious and secular tastes. That said, there is no explicit denial of an external creator—and the book is silent on how the first things came to be and how life appeared in the ocean. For those exploring the concept of theistic evolution, this would be an appropriate resource. For those expecting a religious story of creation, it is not—and I shan’t criticize a book for not being something it is not trying to be.

What How the Sea Came to Be does  is invite questions and invoke wonder. It presents to us the mysterious ocean in all its glory and invites to explore that mystery deeper, and for that it ought to be treasured.”

—LifeIsStory * Starred Review —Link


“Long, long ago, when the Earth was young and new, the world was a fiery place. Volcanoes exploded from deep down below, and steamy, hot clouds rose up high. Rain poured down for thousands of years, filling the world’s very first oceans. There the teeniest stirrings of life began. Earth’s creatures grew bigger and bigger, evolving into exciting forms like jellyfish, coral, and worms. Millions of years passed. Down in the depths and up on the surface, ocean life grew and spread. Now the sea teems with all kinds of animals—squid, turtles, dolphins, barracudas, even glowing fish, all living in the waters where long, long ago, life itself came to be. 

Spanning 4.5 billion years of evolution, this extensively researched book is an accessible introduction to geology, oceanography, and marine biology. Entrancing verse, awe-inspiring art, and fascinating back matter capture the mysterious beauty of the ocean and the incredible organisms who call it home.”

—Michelle Schaub / Goodreads May 23 —Link


“Two evocative picture books deserve mention and a place in any elementary-level library collection. 

Olga Fadeeva’s Wind: Discovering Air in Motion (9780802855992), translated by Lena Traer, invites young readers to consider the wind’s origins, incarnations, and facts. 

From wind speed definitions to how the wind helps plants and animals, this lovely survey invites kids to make bigger-picture connections between wind and its impact on humans and nature alike, supporting the insights with illustrations that add interest and embellishment to the science and speculations about wind properties and importance. 

Jennifer Berne’s How the Sea Came to Be and All the Creatures In It (9780802854780) reaches ages 6-10 with a combination of inviting thoughts and vivid illustrations by Amanda Hall. 

How the Sea Came to Be and All the Creatures In It’s introduction to geology, oceanography, and marine biology pairs verse with vivid imagery, inviting youngsters to better understand the sea’s evolutionary process and importance to the world. Gorgeous illustrations add visual splendor to the information.” 

Both are top-recommended acquisitions.” 

—Donovan’s Bookshelf June 23 —Link


“Jennifer Berne divides her rich poetic account into three parts: The Birth of the Sea, The Birth of Life and All That the Sea Came To Be, covering geology, oceanography, biology and evolution over 4.5 billion years – an enthralling journey indeed, especially when set alongside Amanda Hall’s show-stopping mixed media illustrations. The layout of every spread is a joy to explore.

The verbal imagery grips from the outset: ‘Volcanoes exploded from inside the Earth. / They blazed and they blasted and boomed. / And comets and asteroids crashed out of the sky, icy and rocky they zoomed.’

Having presented nature’s violence in storms and volcanic eruptions, the author and artist present the emergence of microscopic life forms – ‘smaller than small, and adrift in the seas,’ that gradually combined and changed into new 

and larger forms: ‘frilled creatures that wiggled and crawled’ as well as drifting, squishing jellyfish with their thread-like tentacles and then came the worm – a creature that ‘points as it squirms’.

Eventually we reach the multi-layered aquatic zones of the present time and then slowly return to the surface encountering a wealth of amazing marine flora and fauna to land at last on the shores of now, where people are exploring the rock pools.

Scientifically accurate throughout and written in almost faultless rhyme, there are no labels but it’s not difficult to locate the creatures named if you look carefully. Moreover, those who want to dive deeper can use the additional resources at the end of the book.

Totally immersive and with a wide appeal, this is a book for any collection.”

—Jillrbennett’s Reviews of Children’s Books/ Red Reading Hub —Link