Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on April 10, 2015
High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs
By Lisa Kahn Schnell; Illustrated By Alan Marks
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Publication date: 4/14/2015
Every spring, Delaware Bay is the scene of a remarkable event in nature. Millions of horseshoe crabs leave the Atlantic Ocean to mate and lay eggs in the sand. Migrating shorebirds stop here along their trek from South America. Scientists arrive to gather data, while beach vacationers come to observe the uproar.
Lisa Kahn Schnell pens a dramatic life cycle story in her engaging debut book High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs with exceptional watercolor and pencil illustrations by Alan Marks.
The book features essential back matter goodness on these weird and wonderful arthropods. Here, the author writes about the importance of horseshoe crabs and their eggs in the food web and how Delaware Bay has been the site for their annual spawning for the past 10,000 years. Another interesting note discovered in the back matter: horseshoe crabs aren’t actually crabs, but creatures similar to Paleozoic trilobites.
The research behind the book would result from the author witnessing one such mass spawning of horseshoe crabs on a morning walk on the beach. She strolled the beach just as she had a hundred times since her childhood when she came upon a cast of horseshoe crabs carried to shore by the tide. How had she reached adulthood and not yet learned about Delaware Bay’s spring visitors?
“They’re tagging. Scientists tag horseshoe crabs each spring. Months or even years later, when people find tagged horseshoe crabs on the beach and report them, scientists learn answers to basic questions: How far does this animal travel? How long does it live? How many horseshoe crabs are out there in the sea?”
Understanding the powerful resonance the story of the horseshoe crabs might have with younger readers, Kahn Schnell decided not to keep it to herself. Her observations form the basis of the book’s eyewitness point of view, while Marks’ illustrations portray up-close and factual vignettes that draw the reader in on events on the beach.
“IT’S HAPPENING!” shouts the text on a page highlighted by the image of a child expertly flipping an upturned horseshoe crab. According to Kahn Schnell, one of the many volunteers helping scientists tag the arthropods can often be seen rescuing a wayward horseshoe crab from the perils of being stuck on its back. The author recommends grasping the horseshoe crab by the top, rounded edge of the exoskeleton—not the tail—and gently flipping it up.
What might a person find on a morning walk on the beach? A big idea from Kahn Schnell and Marks is that we cannot remain forever isolated from the happenings of horseshoe crabs or migratory birds. The experience of being in nature is put forth very beautifully in the book where humans are aware of and immersed in its events.
High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs is a highly recommended read for what it shares about the immediacy, excitement and reward of being in nature as well as the accessible science on the life cycle of the horseshoe crab.
Lisa Kahn Schnell, a former Peace Corps volunteer with a master’s degree in botany, now lives in southeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, three hens and one Ghanaian cat.
Alan Marks is the illustrator of award-winning children’s books, including Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle, A Mother’s Journey and Storm. He lives in the Kent countryside with his wife and two daughters.
Charlesbridge publishes high-quality books of fiction and nonfiction for children with the goal of creating lifelong readers and lifelong learners.