One Million Oysters on Top of the Mountain – Alex Nogues & Miren Asiain Lora

One Million Oysters on Top of the Mountain by Alex Nogués, Miren Asiain Lora, Lawrence Schimel
Also by this author: Hello, Earth!: Poems to Our Planet, Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile, It's So Difficult, Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War, Madani's Best Game, 9 Kilometers
Published by Eerdmans on September 28, 2021
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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Come closer and look at these rocks: they’re not normal stones at all! They’re thousands and thousands of mollusks, fossilized together in the sediment. But how did a million oysters ever land on top of a mountain? 
Written by a geologist, this inquisitive journey guides readers through the movements of seas, strata, and tectonic plates. The landscapes of the present can be clues to events in the past. Lush, atmospheric illustrations offer fascinating details to discover, and sidebars and an extensive glossary provide intriguing connections to marine biology and scientific history. 
A compelling introduction to earth science, this book will encourage readers to ask questions, think critically, and embrace their curiosity about the natural world.

One Million Oysters on Top of the Mountain is a beautifully illustrated ode to geology that centers itself on the question “How did those oysters even get there?” Our guide is Alex Nogues, a Spanish geologist and paleontologist who writes children’s books on the side (or is it the other way round?). Nogues has a number of Spanish language books, with a few being translated into English.

Calling this a “children’s book” isn’t quite accurate, as I would say that it’s aimed at a preteen level, maybe grades 5-7—or a bit younger. The book sets the tone with a meandering foray into the topic, giving readers panel after panel of the things surrounding the titular oysters. All of this isn’t just fluff. As we learn later, the type of rock determines the type of vegetation which determines the type of animals that live there. All of the beauty we see on our journey to the oysters are, in some way, related to how the oysters got on top of the mountain.

Nogues explains what a fossil is, how the various strata of Earth’s rocks formed and what they tell us. He uses artistic language and speaks of the strata like a musical score, teaching us the tune of the earth. He shares with us that, long ago, the mountain must have been underwater. Oysters live in water, so that’s the only way they could have gotten there! He writes how, over time, the oceans move and the foundations of the earth shifts and mountains form. Nogues has an exuberant love for geology and it shows through with One Million Oysters on Top of the Mountain.

One thing that I will note is that Nogues is clear that he does not believe that the mountain was created or that the oysters were placed on the mountain by a global flood (a prevailing explanation among young earth creationists). He mentions human evolution and holds to a 1.6-billion-year-old earth. This is secular science book for children, not a religious book. And I’ll say on the issue is that the only thing this book does is refute young earth creationism. Eerdmans is known as a Christian publisher—they publish excellent evangelical commentaries that would probably take issue with this geological interpretation. Their children’s books tend to be more general market and aren’t what people might expect. It doesn’t bother me, but I do know of people who would feel like it was a bait-and-switch.

The art for One Million Oysters is Miren Asiain Lora, who also provided the art for Hello, Earth! and A Good Day. Lora captures the feel of the book very well, bringing subtle shades and nuance and vibrance to a book that’s pretty much about a lot of rocks and dirt. It’s visually appealing and complements Nogues text well.

In all, I see this book appealing to an upper elementary science teacher or a school librarian—or a kid really into rocks. It’s an appealing and interesting premise that shows how science is used to answer good questions.