February 2014 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

Under the Sea with Ringo Starr

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"Octopus's Garden," by Ringo Starr, illustrations by Ben Cort; Aladdin Books, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 1-6.

Beatles fans have had much to celebrate recently -- February marked the fiftieth anniversary of the group's stateside arrival at Idlewild (JFK) Airport, heralding a massive sea change in pop music. A large piece of Ed Sullivan's stage where the Fab Four signed their names is heading to a New York City auction, where experts estimate it could fetch anywhere between $800,000 and $1,000,000. 

And Ringo Starr is as busy as ever. In addition to planning a tour this summer and recording new music, he recently authored a children's book. The drummer's 1969 hit "Octopus's Garden" is perfect for young audiences, and it's surprising that in the song's forty-six years of existence, this is the first time it has been adapted into book form.

The original lyrics swim along to Ben Cort's playful and cheery illustrations. A smiling, bright orange cephalopod welcomes a group of adventurous children into his fanciful submarinal plot filled with dancing starfish, sticky sea cucumbers and other playful ocean creatures. Children will adore the story, and parents of all ages will find themselves unconsciously humming the happy tune.

Perhaps the highlight of this publication is the accompanying audio disk, which features Ringo on four separate tracks. He introduces himself to a new generation of readers, sings a fresh recording of the song (which sounds a lot like the original), reads the book aloud, and even offers an instrumental version of "Octopus's Garden" for children to sing along, karaoke-style. What a wonderful way to spend a day. 

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