________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 2004


Hidden Depths: Amazing Underwater Discoveries.

Tina Holdcroft.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2004.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (lib. bd.).
ISBN 1-55037-862-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55037-863-5 (lib. bd.).

Subject Headings:
Shipwrecks-Juvenile literature.
Marine accidents-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Lori Walker.

**1/2 /4


Is this a mistake? There's no water here, not even a puddle to paddle in! So what underwater thing can possibly hide on a mountain ridge nearly 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) high in the Canadian Rockies?

The answer hides inside this patch of soft shale rock and you'll find rare fossils of some of the earth's earliest and strangest creatures, from a time when this mountain ridge was under the edge of an ancient sea.

Scientists worldwide are amazed at this fantastic look at ancient animals and how they lived. They now have new clues to understanding the history of the earth.

Curious? Dip your toes into the waters of the past, but keep clear of that five-eyed thingy with the vacuum cleaner hose-nose!

Hidden Depths is the third in Tina Holdcroft's "Hidden!" series which combines cartoon illustrations, humour, and bite-sized information on neat stuff that you really have to look for. Holdcroft's latest book covers 10 underwater discoveries that will fascinate the sophisticated eight to twelve-year-old including an Egyptian lighthouse built around 285 BCE, a Swedish warship, prehistoric creatures, the Jamaican pirate settlement off Port Royal, early submarine technology, shipwrecked Breadalbane in Canada's Arctic, and a sunken spaceship. Each topic is covered in a double page spread and includes a two or three paragraph introduction, a generous illustration and bubbles of facts scattered throughout. The topic of undersea "treasures" is introduced with a maze, wrapped up with a game and supported with information on doing undersea research, seeing the artifacts covered in the book, and finding more information. The book concludes with a comprehensive index.

     The purpose of the "Hidden!" books is clearly to supply a fun, visually appealing introduction to a variety of historical, archeological, and natural sciences topics. Because of this, the bibliography at the end of the book is essential and effective, supplying a sample of books at a similar reading level. A glossary of terms that could also be used in a key word search would also be a welcome addition thereby further facilitating readers in their search for more in-depth information, both in the library and on the web. The detailed illustrations add a great source of information and considerable humor. Somewhat problematic is the organization of facts, one- liners, and historical background. I often felt I read the bubbles in the wrong order or failed to make the connection between facts, with the humor sometimes leading me astray. There were also occasions (in the excerpt, for example) when I was unsure whether statements were meant to add humor or fact. Those undersea creatures are indeed odd. Could a five-eyed thingy with a vacuum cleaner nose be that unrealistic?

     Mixing fact and fun is a wonderful way to present information to kids, and I enjoyed this book and look forward to sharing it with young readers. But the writing style with humour written into each sentence seemed, at times, challenging to follow. And the broad coverage of the area also requires better organization, with less asides and even greater use of arrows to lead the reader through the sequence of bubbles to make sense of everything. The book also begs the question, "Is the novelty of the page and topic spent on the fun before the information gets absorbed?" Clearly, there is a balance to be struck, and I'm not sure it was accomplished here, although I'd love to be proven wrong.

Recommended with Reservations.

Lori Walker is writing middle school nonfiction based on her doctoral work at Simon Fraser University and is completing a Masters in Children's Literature at UBC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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