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Cerullo, Mary M. 1949-

CERULLO, Mary M. 1949-

PERSONAL: Born September 6, 1949, in San Francisco, CA; daughter of George R. (an engineer) and Kathleen (a homemaker; maiden name, Waltz) Moore; married Arthur Cerullo (an attorney), August 19, 1973; children: Christopher, Margaret. Education: Tufts University, B.S. (cum laude), 1971; Boston University, M.Ed., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, biking, camping with family and friends.

ADDRESSES: Home—South Portland, ME. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dutton, 345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.

CAREER: RISE (Resources in Science Education), owner and consultant to schools and environmental organizations, 1988—; Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, communications coordinator.

MEMBER: Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (president), Maine Writers and Publishers Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Outstanding Marine Educator of 1992, National Marine Education Association; Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children citation, National Science Teachers Association/Children's Book Council (NSTA/CBC), for Sharks: Challengers of the Deep and Lobsters: Gangsters of the Sea; Outstanding 1999 Books, Appraisal magazine, and Notable Books for Children citation, Smithsonian magazine, 1999, both for Sea Soup: Phytoplankton; Notable Books for Children citation, Smithsonian magazine, 2000, Honor Book, Society of School Librarians International, 2001, and Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children citation, NSTA/CBC, 2002, all for Sea Soup: Zooplankton; Lupine Award, Maine State Library Association, 2000, for The Truth about Great White Sharks.

WRITINGS:

Sharks: Challengers of the Deep, photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman, Dutton/Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1993, reprinted as part of the series Paperback Plus Teacher's Resource. Level 6. Easy, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.

Lobsters: Gangsters of the Sea, photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman, Dutton/Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1994.

Coral Reef: A City That Never Sleeps, Dutton/Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1996.

The Octopus: Phantom of the Sea, photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

Reading the Environment: Children's Literature in the Science Classroom, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 1997.

Dolphins: What They Can Teach Us, photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Sea Soup: Phytoplankton, photographs by Bill Curt-singer, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 1999.

The Truth about Great White Sharks, photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman, illustrated by Michael Wertz, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.

Ocean Detectives: Solving the Mysteries of the Sea, (with teacher's resource binder, videocassette, and posters), Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 2000.

Sea Soup: Zooplankton, photographs by Bill Curt-singer, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 2001.

The Truth about Dangerous Sea Creatures, photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman, illustrated by Michael Wertz, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2003.

Life under Ice, photographs by Bill Curtsinger, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 2003.

Sea Turtles: Ocean Nomads, photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman, Dutton (New York, NY), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: Mary M. Cerullo has made a career of writing books that champion misunderstood or over-looked creatures in the world's oceans. Her texts are well-regarded for being informative, thought-provoking, and well-written, of interest to both report-writers and browsers. While providing information about feeding, mating, and endangerment, Cerullo is credited with keeping her eye upon the intriguing details that often capture children's imaginations. Her science books are generally written in a casual tone, in short bursts of prose that seamlessly interweave facts about her subjects. Though some reviewers have complained that this makes her books difficult to use for some students, others have praised Cerullo's choice as one particularly engaging for reluctant readers.

Introducing youngsters to marine life, the author has written books that help erase some common myths about sea creatures. She once told CA, "Although I teach and write about other areas of science, I am most intrigued by ocean life, partly because so little is known about even the most popular (or infamous) animals of the sea, such as sharks, octopuses, dolphins, and whales. I found when I was researching Sharks: Challengers of the Deep that scientists couldn't even agree on how many species of sharks there are, let alone about their behavior, how long they live, and their number of offspring. Part of the reason I wrote the book was to dispel some of the prejudices against sharks that portray them as blood-thirsty man-eaters."

Sharks is filled with information about sharks' anatomy, habits, reproduction, survival, and behavior, including the fact that out of 350 species of sharks, only five to ten percent are potential man-eaters. Interestingly, as Cerullo reveals in her book, a large shark produces as many as twenty thousand teeth in a ten year span of time. Recalling her early experiences with actual sharks, Cerullo once told CA: "After more than twenty years of writing and teaching about the ocean, I . . . became a certified scuba diver. My first open ocean dive was in the Bahamas, in the company of ten Caribbean reef sharks. I sat on the ocean floor almost breathless as sharks swarmed around a diver handing out fish scraps and then silently glided over my head. At one point, I turned around to discover a shark watching me from ten feet away. I looked at it, it looked at me. It blinked first (with a nictitating membrane) and swam off."

Lobsters: Gangsters of the Sea is a good, early example of Cerullo's approach to her subject. The focus is on the crustacean's relationship with the human world and the behavior revealed as they are farmed, hunted, caught, cooked, and eaten. Cerullo takes her intriguing title from the lobster's reputation for behaving in an excessively aggressive and territorial manner, even toward other lobsters. "Cerullo's style is informal and immediate," remarked Hazel Rochman in Booklist. "Scientific discoveries and questions raised about the continued health of the species round out a first-rate presentation," contended Margaret A. Bush in Horn Book.

Unlike some of her other titles, Coral Reef: A City That Never Sleeps focuses on a wide variety of sea life in its highly-illustrated pages. Keeping the metaphor of the title alive throughout the book, Cerullo brings the densely populated crevices of the coral reef home to young readers who may never see a coral reef in person. This "intelligently constructed and highly appealing presentation [ends] on a thought-provoking note," remarked Bush in Horn Book, referring to the author's essay on destruction of the coral reefs and conservation efforts. And, like Cerullo's other books on sea-life, Coral Reef features numerous photographs that bring the world of these creatures alive. The combination of a "fascinatingly fact-filled" text and "clear, bright, well-composed pictures" makes this book "a standout" according to Lisa Wu Stowe in School Library Journal.

In The Octopus: Phantom of the Sea Cerullo discusses one of the most mysterious sea creatures in existence and one often considered among the most frightening. Here, the author offers an "objective and respectful look" at the life cycle, feeding, and mating habits of this cephalopod, which can regenerate, create camouflage, and swim by jet propulsion, according to Denia Hester in Booklist. "This is a spellbinding look at the octopus, up close and personal," remarked Janice M. Del Negro in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.

Almost as mysterious and perhaps even more often the subject of nightmares are the so-called man-eating sharks, the subject of Cerullo's book, The Truth about Great White Sharks. As in many of her science books for young adults, the focus is on the relationship with humans, and the work of various marine biologists who research great white shark habits, mating, and longevity are prominently featured in these pages.

By contrast, the mammals at the center of Cerullo's Dolphins: What They Teach Us have long been a favorite of humanity for their friendliness, intelligence, and usefulness. Here, Cerullo highlights the interplay of humans and dolphins through research in echolocation, hydrodynamics, and deep-diving, as well as therapy programs with sick children. The book is structured by visits to various dolphin research labs and thus is somewhat more difficult to follow than Cerullo's other books, according to some reviewers. However, "this title is a good supplemental source" concluded Arwen Marshall in School Library Journal, adding, "it has lots of appeal for casual readers and fans of this popular animal."

In Sea Turtles: Ocean Nomads, Cerullo turns her attention to these hard-backed creatures who seem so solid and yet teeter on the brink of extinction. Described as "a first rate choice" by School Library Journal critic Susan Oliver, Sea Turtles offers readers information about the long-lived turtle, including facts about its physical characteristics, habitat, and endangered status. "The narrative is lively and immediate," claimed Booklist contributor Catherine Andronik, who went on to predict that Sea Turtles "will please students."

In two related books, Cerullo brings to life the micro-scopic plants and animals that make the ocean's water a source of sustenance for smaller creatures. In Sea Soup: Zooplankton and Sea Soup: Phytoplankton, the author uses a question-and-answer format to detail the lives of these tiny flora and fauna. "This is a fascinating look at a watery zoo of creatures," remarked Patricia Manning in a School Library Journal review of Sea Soup: Zooplankton. Accompanied by a teacher's guide for each volume, written by Betsy Stevens, the book provides "a wonderfully unusual resource that provides many opportunities for students to learn about marine life, ecology, and global warming," concluded a critic, reviewing Sea Soup: Phytoplankton in Appraisal. The author has also written Ocean Detectives, which outlines how oceanographers solve the mysteries of the ocean. For teachers, Reading the Environment: Children's Literature in the Science Classroom makes the case for combining science and literature studies for children in order to help them learn about and record the world around them.

Cerullo once told CA: "At thirteen, I decided to become an oceanographer because adults were always asking me, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' If they were asking, I figured I was supposed to have my future planned out. I studied through high school and college preparing for a career in oceanography. I put off six or more years of graduate school and started working at the New England Aquarium in Boston. It was there that I discovered I was really a dilettante, not a scientist, and that I preferred learning a little about a lot of different subjects rather than specializing in one narrow field of study.

"I love collecting children's books on science, both fact and fiction. I keep finding new favorite authors, including Joanna Cole, Patricia Lauber, and Lynne Cherry. One of the things I enjoy most is helping elementary teachers use children's trade books to teach science."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Biology Teacher, May, 2002, Mark C. Belk, review of Sea Soup: Zooplankton, p. 386.

American Scientist, November, 1994, p. 568.

Appraisal, fall, 1993, p. 14; spring-summer-fall, 2000, review of Sea Soup: Phytoplankton, p. 19, and review of Ocean Detectives: Solving the Mysteries of the Sea, p. 167.

Booklist, January 15, 1993, p. 887; March 1, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Lobsters: Gangsters of the Sea, p. 1254; March 1, 1996, Chris Sherman, review of Coral Reef: A City That Never Sleeps, p. 1175; February 1, 1997, Denia Hester, review of The Octopus: Phantom of the Sea, p. 936; March 15, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Sea Soup: Phytoplankton, p. 1372; April 1, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of The Truth about Great White Sharks, p. 1456; July, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Sea Soup: Zooplankton, p. 2001; May 15, 2003, Catherine Andronik, review of Sea Turtles: Ocean Nomads, p. 1658.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1997, Janice M. Del Negro, review of The Octopus, p. 201; February, 1999, Janice M. Del Negro, review of Dolphins: What They Can Teach Us, p. 197.

Faces, October, 2001, review of Coral Reef, p. 46.

Horn Book, January-February, 1994, Margaret A. Bush, review of Lobsters, p. 87; March-April, 1996, Margaret A. Bush, review of Coral Reef, p. 223.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1992, p. 1569; February 15, 1994, review of Lobsters; November 15, 1996, review of The Octopus, p. 1667; January 1, 1999, review of Dolphins, p. 63; May 1, 2003, review of Sea Turtles, p. 674.

Plays, May, 1999, review of Dolphins, p. 75.

Publishers Weekly, March 20, 2000, "Animal Friends," review of The Truth about Great White Sharks, p. 94.

School Library Journal, February, 1993, p. 96; March, 1994, Karey Wehner, review of Lobsters, p. 226; January, 1996, Lisa Wu Stowe, review of Coral Reef, p. 115; December, 1997, Kathleen McCabe, review of The Octopus, p. 134; April, 1998, Edith Ching, review of Reading the Environment: Children's Literature in the Science Classroom, p. 47; March, 1999, Arwen Marshall, review of Dolphins, p. 218; May, 2000, Nora Jane Natke, review of Sea Soup: Phytoplankton, p. 179; July, 2000, Nora Jane Natke, review of The Truth about Great White Sharks, p. 92; December, 2000, review of The Truth about Great White Sharks, p. 52; August, 2001, Patricia Manning, review of Sea Soup: Zooplankton, p. 193; July, 2003, Susan Oliver, review of Sea Turtles, p. 138.

Science Books and Films, April, 1993, p. 84; August, 1994, p. 176; December, 1997, Johnes K. Moore, review of The Octopus, p. 275.

Wildlife Conservation, September-October, 2001, review of Sea Soup: Phytoplankton, p. 68.*

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