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Posted & filed under Children's Book Reviews

In Kyo Maclear’s The Specific Ocean, a young girl reluctantly leaves her friends in the city for a family vacation by the Pacific Ocean.  Determined to be miserable, her daily moping schedule includes tasks such as, “Watch dust … Pull loose thread … Stare at the walls.”  The lure of the natural world eventually wins her over, and the child explores the shoreline, watches the waves roll in, and swims along the rocks.  She reflects upon how she can bring her “Specific Ocean,” and the blissful feelings it conjures, back home with her.  With grace and maturity, she realizes memories don’t have to be bottled in bowls or jars.

Katty Maurey’s paintings’ tranquil palette of clean creams and shimmering blues, perfectly capture not only the child’s initial ennui–such as in an image of her curled up on her bed– but also her carefree delight while floating on her back in the water.

Maclear’s poetic language is reminiscent of the calming ebb and flow rhythm of the ocean, as there are many slow, ponderous phrases to savour. With its gentle phrasing, and evocative images, The Specific Ocean is a contemplative, summertime delight.

  • Specific Ocean

    By Kyo Maclear, Illustrated by Katty Maurey, Published by Kids Can Press
    • ISBN 13: 978-1-894786-35-5
Linda Ludke
Linda Ludke is a librarian at London Public Library.  Her reviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, School Library Journal and CM:  Canadian Review of Materials.  When she’s not reading and writing she also loves searching for vintage treasures.