I was lucky to win a copy of this wonderful ebook during a giveaway Cat ran during the launch of this latest short chapter book.
I don't want to give too much away, suffice to say, the characters are charming, the story telling is perfect for the intended age group and the illustrations are rather cute.
My first impression was this was a story that only girls would find interesting. So I decided to test my theory. I tutor a neighbour's ten year old son after school and asked him to read the first chapter to gauge his opinion. After all, the best reviews always come direct from a child. He enjoyed that first chapter but no surprise, agreed he thought it was more suitable for the girls in his class, so I didn't press him to read further. The following week when given the choice to go back to "Zac Power, Frozen Fear" by H. I. Larry or continue with the "Magical Aquarium," to my surprise he chose .....drum roll please...... (you guessed it!) "The Magical Aquarium!" A second chapter in, we wrote a couple of sentences about the story so far, then he asked if he could download it himself so that he could finish it this week. He didn't want to wait until I returned next week with my tablet to be able to continue reading. You can't get a better reaction than that! I was very impressed. Cat's story had drawn my reader into her imaginative world and piqued his curiosity.
My theory fell flat. This is a book for all kids. They will love meeting the sea creatures in it. Some are a bit quirky, there's a vegetarian shark and a sea turtle with an itchy nose that needs to be scratched. Kids learn all about touch tanks where they can have the hands-on experience of feeling unusual creatures and walk through underwater tunnels to view all kinds of amazing underwater friends. Of course there is something quite magical that happens while the children visit this particular aquarium, but you are going to have to read the story to find out. No spoilers here!
You can tell Cat Michaels is a former school teacher like myself, at the end of the book she has included a glossary of what she terms "Challenge Words" for young readers to check their understanding of meaning. Included with these are gorgeous photographs to further visually demonstrate comprehension. This is a perfect conclusion to a magical underwater adventure.
My only concern is that Cat has a stingray in the touch tank. I know they are generally considered docile animals and will only attack when frightened, mainly when stepped on in shallow waters when they are skimming through sand unseen. However, I think as an Australian, seeing them lurking off our shores quite frequently, I am a little more wary. The "Crocodile Hunter," Steve Irwin taught us an invaluable lesson about how dangerous a stingray can actually be if we are not careful. If you read this enchanting book with your children, maybe it is worthwhile having the discussion, a touch tank where children can feel animals under supervision is one thing, but some things are best left alone when discovered in their natural environment.
That being said, I still believe this book is worthy of 5 star(fish) for it's imagination, creativity and environmental awareness. A great way to start a discussion with the kids at home or in your classroom about looking after the world's oceans.