Imagine mingling with whales, jellyfish and sharks as friends! Imagine discovering a sunken ship without having to hold your breath! Imagine relaxing in a beach chair on the bottom of the ocean and searching for and discovering a lost treasure chest! These are the feelings that overwhelm you when you go into the underwater wonderland of the Ben Carson Reading Room at Starr King Elementary near Sacramento, CA. The huge room takes up half of the library wing and as you enter, a sandy beach greets you on the left with beach balls, pails and shovels! There are also overarching coconut palm trees, a multi-turreted sand castle, sandpipers picking at the beach, the back of a life guard station and a striped beach umbrella. Seagulls lazily soar in the sky overhead and also pictured are whales in the distance. The 360 degree work of art was painstakingly painted by ladies from nearby St. Michael’s PrivateK-8 Christian School. The care and detail they put into making the mural as real as possible really shines through!
Although the walls have shelves to accommodate the plethora of books available for students to travel to new worlds, the shelves are incorporated right into the mural! You can frolic with otters, dance with a pink and magenta octopus, try peanut butter with a jellyfish, dive with a humpback whale as his tail flips foam, swim through the waving seaweed, explore an intricate branch of coral with several colorful seahorses, or team up with Nemo and Waldo in their coordinating red and white stripes!
This all appears in the mural with friendly sharks and butterflies overhead. Kites hang from the ceilings and pillows sit in abundance around the room. They are in all colors, patterns and shapes, including red stars and smiley crab-shaped pillows in the wooden rowboat centered in the room!
The choice of seats overwhelms visitors as well. There are bright red Adirondack chairs, medium blue beanbag chairs, white-framed beach chairs with and natural wood tic-tac-toe benches! And so you don’t forget where you are, in one section of the floor is a sand-colored 5 by 6-square rug of sea critters, where each has their own square! Windows that rise above the half wall of bookshelves are shaded in blue to not only keep the readers’ focus in the sea-worthy room, but to complement the theme.
On the double doors separating the library from the room, vibrantly designed surf boards are painted standing up, waiting for someone to take the challenge and conquer the waves! Remember the song, “Everybody’s gone surfin’….surfin’ U.S.A?” These boards seem to invite students to go into the room and go book surfing, while discovering the wonders of the waves!
Special thanks to Country Club Optimist Club for sponsoring the room.