The Sign of the Seahorse

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The Sign of the Seahorse
Author Graeme Base
Illustrator Graeme Base
Country United States
Language English
Subject Seahorses
Genre Children's literature
Published 1992
Publisher Harry N. Abrams Inc.
Media type Print (hardcover, paperback)
Pages 44 pages
ISBN 0810938251
Preceded by The Eleventh Hour
Followed by The Discovery of Dragons

The Sign of the Seahorse is a 1992 illustrated children's book by Graeme Base.[1] It was first published on September 15, 1992 through Harry N. Abrams Inc., and was later adapted into a film and musical.[2] The book received a first printing of 350,000 copies and was an alternative selection of the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club.[3]

Base was inspired to write the book during a scuba diving experience in Martinique, after which point he began researching fish and started pursuing underwater photography.[4]


The book's story is composed of two acts and is set in the underwater town of Reeftown, where its fishy inhabitants live peacefully with each other. However one of them, Gropmund Grouper, is intent on fulfilling his own greedy needs at the expense of everyone else - even if this requires polluting the entire area. This pollution has far reaching effects and forces Corporal Bert to leave behind his sweetheart Pearl Trout while he tries to find the source of the pollution - unaware that his departure will also cause Pearl to do her own investigating.


Critical reception for The Sign of the Seahorse has been positive and the book has been used as part of many educational lessons, such as helping to explain concept and vocabulary development.[4][5][6][7] Kirkus Reviews wrote "All of this is related in interminable, relentlessly rhythmic doggerel--peppered with clever turns of phrase, but not enough to spice this abundant fish stew. ... At least as imaginative as--and less earnest than--Gurney's Dinotopia, and illustrated with greater skill; there's also the ecological message."[8] while Publishers Weekly describes it as a "Gilbert and Sullivan-like coral reef tale" and refers to "Base's exemplary verse, perfect scansion and witty rhymes" but "youngsters may have difficulty here: the tale is lengthy for a picture-book audience, and the artwork's largesse might prove overwhelming." They concluded "The verse makes splendid read-aloud material, however; nightly recitations of the various scenes should keep both reader and audience immensely entertained."[9]

The book was also used by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum as part of a program to help educate children about pollution and the environment[10] and has been part of academic research.[7]

Kids' Book Review has praised the book for its story and artwork,[11] something echoed in People's review of the work.[12]


  1. ^ "The Sign of the Seahorse: A Tale of Greed and High Adventure in Two Acts (review)". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  2. ^ Söffner, Claudia (October 2009). "The art of Graeme Base (review)" (PDF). Bookbird: A Journal of International Children's Literature. 47 (4): 60. doi:10.1353/bkb.0.0205. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  3. ^ Mahany, Barbara. "Is Graeme Base The New Dr. Seuss Or An Author Only A Parent Would Love?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b Trescott, Jacqueline (October 25, 1992). "The Quirky Charmer of Chapter and Verse; Graeme Base, Riding High on His `Seahorse'". The Washington Post (subscription required). Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  5. ^ "The Sign of the Seahorse (review)". School Library Journal. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  6. ^ Reutzel, Douglas Ray; Fawson, Parker (2002). Your Classroom Library: New Ways to Give It More Teaching Power. Scholastic Teaching Resources. p. 59. ISBN 9780439260824. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  7. ^ a b Georgina Barton; Margaret Baguley (September 2014). "Learning through story: A collaborative, multimodal arts approach" (PDF). English Teaching: Practice and Critique. Emerald Publishing Company. 13 (2): 93–112. ISSN 1175-8708. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  8. ^ "The Sign of the Seahorse A Tale of Greed and High Adventure in Two Acts". Kirkus Media LLC. 15 September 1992. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  9. ^ "Sign of the Seahorse". PWxyz LLC. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  10. ^ Gottlieb, Lisa (2004). The Evolution of Library and Museum Partnerships. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 64–65. ISBN 9781591580645. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  11. ^ Blandford, Megan. "Review: The Sign of the Seahorse". Kids' Book Review. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  12. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: The Sign of the Seahorse". People. Retrieved 11 July 2015.

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