Sea Monsters, A Canadian Museum of Nature Book
Author: Stephen Cumbaa; Illustrator: Margot Thompson
Pages: 40
Publisher/Date: Kids Can Press/2007
ISBN: 1553375599
Age Levels: 7-12

Book Review

It was late one night, far out in the middle of the ocean. Suddenly, the dark water began to bubble and foam. Something rose high above the surface. A gigantic tentacle shot out of the darkness and thumped the deck! Then the monstrous arm slid back into the murky depths. Not one of the terrified crew slept that night.
Tales such as these have been passed down since humans began navigating the Earth’s waterways. Interestingly, some of these stories were probably true. Scientists have found fossils of sea monsters that once lived.
Some of the largest sea monsters were the fish-lizards, or ichthyosaurs (ICK-thee-oh-sawrz). These hunters were fast, powerful swimmers and deep divers. They could chase their prey as far below the ocean’s surface as the length of six football fields.
Their large eyes allowed them to dine in the dark. Lots of "sharp teeth in their narrow jaws kept dinner from slipping away."

Another monster was the mosasaur (MOE-zuh-sawr). Scientists believe these giant lizards hunted close to shore. "Rocketing through the water," they would "gobble down anything in their path." In fact, "the mosasaur’s mouth would swing open wide so it could swallow an animal nearly as big as itself."

While the ichthyosaur and mosasaur lived millions of years ago, not all sea monsters are extinct.
One of the strangest sea monsters of all is the manta ray, a close relative of sharks . . . These giants fly through the water with their great wings. Each wing can stretch out as large as your living room . . . Mantas often take off with a burst of speed and leap out of the water—as high as 5 m (16 ft.). They have been known to crush boats when they smack down on the water in belly flops.
And what of the famous sea monsters such as the ones supposedly found in Loch Ness and Lake Champlain? Although rewards have been offered for proof of these animals, no one has collected as yet. "Scientists," Cumbaa writes, "are still looking for answers."

This exciting, fact-filled exploration is extremely well written. Cumbaa does a masterful job of presenting scientific information in a way that young readers can understand and relate to. For example: "The fossil skeleton of a truly monstrous ichthyosaur was discovered in British Columbia, Canada, in 1992. This beast was as long as two big school buses. It probably weighed more than 1000 fourth graders!" The artwork, a mixture of photography and oil paintings, brings these fascinating creatures to life.

An index is appended.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2008 Education Oasis

About the Author

Dr. Stephen Cumbaa is a paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature. He has discovered the fossil skeletons of several ancient sea monsters but isn't sure he wants to encounter a living one. He wrote the bestselling The Bones Book and Skeleton and Megalodon: The Prehistoric Shark. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

About the Illustrator

Margot Thompson is a graphic designer at the Royal Ontario Museum as well as a freelance illustrator. She has illustrated several books for children, including the award-winning The Tree of Life. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


For sea monster facts and photographs, visit BBC's Science and Nature: Prehistoric Life.

National Geographic offers an interactive, online Sea Monster exhibit.