'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Review: The Squid, The Vibrio and The Moon

Through a range of symbioses (some brief, some lifelong), microbes have collaborated with all types of life on Earth to create new, emergent forms, including human beings.

Scale Free Network is an art-science collaborative devoted to promoting the wonder of science and they have just published their first book.

Ali, a Vibrio fischeri bacterium, must find food and refuge in the ocean. She and her friends escape protozoa who would devour them, and confront a guardian haemocyte who would deny them a haven inside Sepio, a young squid.  Sepio too has predators who would devour him before he can grow up. Once together they help each other to survive.

The book opens with a double spread Meet the Characters. A significant challenge for the creators is to show characters who are ordinarily undetectable to the naked eye ; a squiggly line across the two pages neatly lays out the scale. A great introduction to scientific measurement for ages 9+.

As the subject of the book is symbiosis, it is fitting that the story’s two parts are from each character’s point of view (Ali’s Adventure and Sepio’s First Day.) Anthropomorphism is a necessary device to make this an engaging narrative for the young reader.

On most pages, the pictures have a fragment of the text as a caption, which effectively creates two narratives. The colouring of the book has been very well thought out – the green-grey of the ocean depths contrast well with the blue glow when Sepio’s moonglow lights up. Predators loom out of the murk, eyeballing the reader, personalising the fight for survival.

The book’s overall design is pleasing : a small glossy paperback that fits into the hand. The book’s authors and illustrators acknowledge Kids’ Own Publishing’s work in introducing them to this child-friendly form. The only design feature I didn’t like was the use of full stops in headings and captions – I feel that this can sometimes encourage the reader to come to a stop too. This is minor.

As is common with information books in picture book form, it ends with a glossary and several more full colour pages of information for both young readers and adults to find out more together. 

The foundation of all science is enquiry, and this book will encourage readers to wonder about the world, and desire to know more. When Ginger Meggs wanted to insult someone, he would call them a ‘microbe’.  Ali and Mia are fierce survivors he would admire.

The book is available for sale from the Scale Free Network.

- This review by Margaret Kett.

Title: The Squid, the Vibrio and The Moon (Small Friends series)
Author:  Ailsa Wild, Aviva Reed & Dr. Gregory Crocetti
Publisher: Scale Free Network, $25.00 RRP
Publication Date: 2013
Format: Soft cover
ISBN: 9780646915142
For ages: 9+
Type: Junior Non-Fiction

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