Book Review: Oona, by DiPucchio and Figueroa

Book Review: Oona
Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator: Raissa Figueroa
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Ages: 4 to 8 years
Genre: Picture Book

Alongside her friend Otto the otter, mischievous mermaid Oona seeks treasures and instead finds, well, a whole lot of trouble. That trouble only multiplies when she spots one extra-sparkly treasure stuck in a deep, dark underwater rift. She’s pushed to the limits of her determination, and repeated struggles even start to steal her spark; but just when Oona faces her greatest challenge, she finds treasure she wasn’t even looking for.

The text of this story leans heavily on the pictures to show what Oona’s challenges are and to answer how she solves them, which could make this book mildly problematic for a read-aloud. Fortunately, Raissa Figueroa’s illustrations compliment the text well; they are other-worldly. To put it simply: the pictures are stunningly pretty. Occasional moments of fragmentation in the text are washed away by the complex facial expressions and swift depictions of action. Blended layers of yellows, light greens, and pale blues depict shoreline warmth to contrast with cool deep-sea purple, navy, and shadowy black. Oona is a bold, black mermaid depicted with a stripy orange tail and natural hair that’s made even more beautiful with pearl and kelp adornment. Her otter friend Otto is goofy with his huge, puffy cheeks and cheerful antics. Little kiddos will love studying each page for tiny illustrated treasures and various sea creatures.

This sweet story about persistence, invention, and finding treasure in unexpected places is an important tale for trying times and a notable collection of undersea images that are not to be missed. I can’t wait to see more of Raissa Figueroa’s work, and I’m sure you’ll agree! If the wait list for this book at your library is anything like the one at mine— get in line to reserve it asap! And if you’re yearning for more undersea adventures, check out my reviews of Crab Cake and Spencer and Vincent the Jellyfish Brothers.

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