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The Specific Ocean

Illustrated by Katty Maurey

The story of one child’s encounter and connection with the ocean. It is a tale for the outdoorsy and indoorsy, for those who have already found their magical place in nature and for those who are still searching.

First the girl didn’t want to come.
Now she doesn’t want to leave.
Wash, swash, splush, hush.
She wants to carry this ocean home with her—a bowlful,
a glassful—back to the city.
But her brother says the ocean would be less.
Shine, shimmer, gleam, glow.
How will she keep it with her?


A Personal Note

As a child, I knew big cities. Toronto, London, Tokyo. Big-N “Nature” was a movie image or distant backdrop—something I glimpsed from plane windows, or experienced with my immigrant family on short drives through the country. Then one year I went to summer camp in the woods of northern Ontario. Suddenly nature was transformed from an abstraction into a physical reality. When I stood among the trees, the pictures of trees I had seen began to dissolve. I discovered that trees weren’t singularly “green” but rather endless shades of green. Thirty years later, those specific woods are still with me.

My youngest son had a similar experience a few years ago on the Pacific Ocean, which he took to calling the Specific Ocean after mishearing its true name or maybe after deciding that he knew its truer name. I wrote this story for him, for the outdoorsy and indoorsy, for those who have already found a place to stand (sit, swim) in the world and for those who are still searching.


Katty Maurey

Katty Maurey is the illustrator of Francis, the Little Fox and Quand j’étais chien, which earned her a nomination for the Governor General’s Award for Illustration. She lives in Montreal, Quebec, but loves to spend time with her family in France by the sea.


  • 30 Books for the Holidays, Orion Magazine 2021
  • TD Summer Reading Club Selection, 2016
  • Canadian Children’s Book Centre/Best Books for Kids & Teens, 2016
  • Huffington Post Best Picture Books of 2015
  • 49th Shelf Favourite Picture Books of 2015
  • TD Reads/Featured Book, 2015
  • Top 2015 Mighty Girl Books for Young Children


“In clear, lovely prose and serene illustrations in shades of cornflower blue, the palest pink and olive green so soft they are almost muted, Maclear and Maurey capture a paradoxical personality type — the quiet, seemingly avoidant little person who actually has a lot going on inside, not all of it gentle and retiring…subtle and powerful.”
The New York Times

“Like the ocean itself, this book shimmers quietly on the surface but contains an unexpected depth.”
Minh Le, Huffington Post

“With depth and subtlety, Maclear writes about a girl who is taken on vacation to a place she resents, warms to, and learns to love…Maurey’s pale gouache paintings shimmer with whites, pale blues, and greens; dreamy scenes of floating and swimming mirror the girl’s drifting thoughts and emotions. Maclear and Maurey capture with finesse the mysterious process by which a physical place finds its way into the heart.”
Publishers Weekly

“Through Maclear’s pitch-perfect verse and Maurey’s drawings, the picture book captures: the rolling emotions of being dragged away on holiday as a child; of despairing how to fill vacation days; of then finding joy in something as grand as the Specific (Pacific) ocean; and of falling deeply in love with something bigger than oneself and too majestic to hold captive.”
Fab Book Reviews

“[the] final description of the ocean is rapturous … A lovely, quiet beach story.”

“This lyrical picture book by the author of Virginia Wolf conveys an important message about the power of natural spaces.”
A Mighty Girl

“I think the ocean should belong to everyone, and to all the sea creatures who live there. My favorite picture in the book is the one where the girl is sitting on her bed in her room, picturing ocean creatures swimming below. This is a beautiful story that does a great job describing the beauty of the ocean.”
Elena (Age 7), Kids’ Book Buzz

“In the story, we learn the importance of the oceans as they relate to our human world, their own varied ecosystems, and even as a mirror for the moon… This book is a personal celebration of a child embracing an unknown and gaining perspective.”
First Thursday

“The sun shines on the page, the water beckons. The book has that dreamlike quality that many good vacations do, especially those filled with salt water and sand.”
Waking Brain Cells

“A handsome, evocative look at one child’s formative experience.”
—School Library Journal

“No picture book writer could keep producing work that is every time so different, so smart in its concept, original and singular—each book its own perfect world. But Kyo Maclear does, and it’s so remarkable.”
Pickle Me This

“Maclear’s poetic language is reminiscent of the calming ebb and flow rhythm of the ocean, as there are many slow, ponderous phrases to savour. With its gentle phrasing, and evocative images, The Specific Ocean is a contemplative, summertime delight.”
National Reading Campaign

“The Specific Ocean serves as a timely reminder that the mysteries and wonders of nature can be carried with us, no matter how busy we are.”
Quill and Quire

The Specific Ocean is a book that will be reread and thought about for its varying nuances of meaning.”
CM Magazine

“The large pages are filled with vast marine landscapes painted in muted browns, blues, and greens. Human figures are small in comparison to the enormous ocean. It’s easy to sympathize with the little girl protagonist who wishes that her parents hadn’t dragged her out of her familiar inner-city home and into this strange and intimidating territory.”
Montreal Review of Books

“Kyo Maclear tackles the theme of a little girl who doesn’t want to leave her friends for a vacation by the sea in The Specific Ocean, illustrated by Katty Maurey. She expects the water will be ‘Steal-your-breath-away cold,’ but discovers that, “There is no late or hurry or racing in ocean time.”
Hakai Magazine