Hello Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Do you know the book Hello Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella? If not, you should! Ryan’s writing and Astrella’s paintings make this an absolute winner for both teachers and parents. We received Hello Ocean as a gift when our oldest was born, and it’s still a summer- and beach-read favorite in our house six years later (and would likely be read repeatedly year-round if I didn’t stash it away with our other beach books). Read on to see why we love it!

While I usually start a recommendation by talking about the story itself, I’m going to address these illustrations first, because they are absolutely stunning. Using acrylics on airbrush paper (don’t worry, I had to look up airbrush paper myself, and from what I can tell, not many artists work with it!), Astrella fills every single space with vibrant, eye-catching color. While I do love Ryan’s writing in Hello Ocean, Astrella’s illustrations are some of my favorites. He has captured so many of the rich details of a day at the beach so well that these images, at times, almost feel like photographs. And, be sure to check out the sunset this family sees as they leave the beach. Can we please all go there now?

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Now for Ryan’s writing. You may know Ryan from the novels she’s written (such as Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi León, The Dreamer, and Echo), but her picture books are outstanding as well. Written in verse, Ryan’s story allows readers to insert themselves into this day at the beach. Through her illustrative writing, we can see the various shades of blue that the main character sees, and we hear the “lion’s roar” of the ocean. We feel the in and out push and pull of the tide and the “slippery seaweed that wraps around.” And the numerous smells of the beach, from sunscreen to salt to fish? She’s got those covered too. But my favorite refrain is when she addresses the sense of taste at the beach: “I taste the ocean and wonder why / it tastes like tears I sometimes cry.” Her language is just as striking as Astrella’s illustrations!

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Are you a teacher or a homeschool parent? Then stick with me here, because Hello Ocean has so many teaching applications! Through just this text, you could have lessons and discussions about rhyming words, your five senses, descriptive writing, and rich vocabulary words, among others. I can see Hello Ocean being an effective mentor text for writing workshop (maybe children could do descriptive writing about their own favorite places?). This would be a wonderful addition to a beach or ocean theme study in an early childhood or primary classroom, as well as in a science class when talking about the five senses. Possibilities abound!

Have I convinced you yet that you need Hello Ocean? Or that you need to take a trip to the beach as soon as possible? What picture books do you love that seem to magically transport your whole being to a special place?

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