Board Book Review: Mister Seahorse

This book about fish families also promotes inclusive lessons about human families.

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle.
Philomel, Penguin Young Readers, New York, 2004.
Board book, 32 pages.
Lexile:  AD470L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR level:  2.5 (worth 0.5 points)  .

Mister Seahorse caries his eggs until the time comes for them to hatch.

Mister Seahorse cover resized

This book, like Red, is one of those stealth diverse books.  In fact, when it was first given to us, I didn’t add it to the list and assumed it was not diverse at all.  How diverse can a book about a seahorse be?  However, a friend pointed out how this book defies gender standards with many stories of male sea creatures that carry or care for their young.  It could also apply to transgender parents as well.

The story begins when Mrs. Seahorse lays her eggs into a pouch on Mr. Seahorse’s belly.  He then “drifted gently through the sea.”  As he goes, there are two alternating types of other fish.  There are fish he passes by who he doesn’t even see.  These are the cause for the see-through pages that are the most memorable part of the book.  I was curious how they would translate these pages to a board book format, and they definitely are the weakest part of the book especially if your children are rough with books.  However the board book frame around the page keeps it reasonably sturdy for toddlers.

The other type are fish where the male plays an important role such as caring for eggs or baby fish.  There are four hidden fish: trumpet fish, lionfish, leaf fish, and stonefish.  There are four male caretaker fish besides the seahorse: stickleback, tilapia, kurtus, pipe, and bullhead.  The male caretaker fish are all introduced with the title Mr. to emphasize their gender.

Mister Seahorse pages 13 and 14 resized
Mister Seahorse meets Mr. Tilapia on pages 13 and 14 of his book.

After Mr. Seahorse meets or misses all of these fish, the seahorse babies are ready to be born.  The book doesn’t go into any of the births beyond “Mr. Seahorse wiggled and twisted, this way and that.”

Overall, this was a better adaption to board book format than I expected.  This story works great as a story time read aloud with a big book, and I was concerned about how it would translate.  It’s longer than typical board books, and there is a lot of text on the pages where Mr. Seahorse talks with the other male fish.

Between that and the special see-through pages, I would recommend this for slightly older board book readers, or kids used to story time who can listen well and treat a book respectfully.  Although the text is long at points, Carle also uses repeated phrases and patterns to keep the story manageable and interesting for young readers.

This story has great lessons about camouflage and how male and female parents can both care for children.  I think it would be great for any family!  In particular, families interested in sea creatures, single fathers, two dad families, or other children with a male caregiver could get a lot of mileage out of this book.

Mister Seahorse pages 31 and 32 resized
Seahorse babies are born on page 31 and 32 of Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

2 thoughts on “Board Book Review: Mister Seahorse”

    1. I had used this as a storytime book before (one of the libraries I worked at had a huge group read-aloud copy) but never would have thought of it as a diverse book or that it would make a good board book. But this and the toy seahorse our friend also gave have been big hits around here!

      Liked by 1 person

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