In the stacks: New science books

New water-science books for kids include several from Sneed Collard III, who visited us on Monday, as well as the titles listed below.


World Without Fish, by Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by Frank Stockton. Kurlansky, a former East Coast commercial fisherman, has written several books for adults about fish, but here he brings a wealth of information to a new generation. Using a well-chosen combination of photos, illustrations, cartoons, and font varieties, he begins by outlining the problem: too much fishing, too much pollution, too much environmental change. Then he tells readers why they should care, explaining the interconnectedness of animals and plants with clear examples. While he acknowledges that it’s impossible to expect humans to simply stop fishing or polluting, Kurlansky does propose small steps that could add up to big improvements in the health of the ecosystem. Beautifully done – a great read for budding scientists, fisherpeople, fish eaters… well, really, just about anyone interested in our changing environment.

All the Water in the World, by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson. This beautiful picture book is a primer of water conservation for very little ones. With a sometimes flowing, sometimes bouncing rhythm, the text poses a big question: where does water come from? The answer: it doesn’t come, it goes…around. From rain cloud to stream, to ocean and back to cloud again, the water cycle has never before had such a clear and engaging explanation. Beautiful blues and greens dominate the pages until the middle of the book, when dry, dusty, grass, empty cups and thirsty deserts waiting for rain appear – shocking, after all the watery images. Aimed at young listeners, it ends with an age-appropriate plea to not waste or dirty water.

Far From Shore, by Sophie Webb. Webb is a bird specialist embarking on a multi-month scientific expedition to the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean, where she and her shipmates will observe the animals, fish, and birds they see and take measurements to help them understand what kind of changes are happening in the ocean. Loosely structured as a journal, her entries begin in July, before the trip begins and end in December as she prepares to leave the ship for home. Webb’s illustrations are both lovely and accurate, and she makes sure to note when she is drawing what she sees and when she is imagining scenes based on what she knows (drawing, for instance, the small ecosystem that evolves underneath a floating log when all she can see is the log, the boobies sitting on top, and the dolphins circling around). Webb is a wonderful guide on her voyage: she writes about how it feels to climb into the bow chamber of a research vessel, how precious alone-time can be, how awful fishy bird poop is, and how to do a “live biopsy” of a whale. You’ll be eager to head off on a trip of your own after reading about Webb’s journey.

Wow! Ocean! By Robert Neubecker. Join Izzy and her little sister on a trip to the beach in this colorful, nearly wordless picture book for little ones. Each two-page spread introduces readers to a category of sea life, from tidepools and sharks, to whales and coral reefs. All sea life is labeled, from spotted eels to bottlenose whales, and there’s lots to see in the detailed pictures. Look for Izzy and Jo in most of the scenes, and see how many ways they find to travel underwater. This is a beautiful introduction to what’s going on under the waves.

Coral Reefs, by Jason Chin. This is the just the book for readers who want to learn about coral reefs and their ecosystems – beautiful illustrations, memorable information, and a little magical realism thrown in for good measure. The text is purely factual – kids could use this for school reports – but the illustrations are remarkable. As a young girl opens a book that she’s chosen from a shelf (in the Rose Reading room of the Stephen A. Schwarzman branch of the New York Public Library, for those detail-oriented readers out there) and begins to read, corals appear on tables and floors. Soon, the room is flooded – no, not just the room, but the city itself is transformed into an underwater landscape. Still clinging to her book, the young girl sees the text brought to life all around her: parrotfish chip away at the hard limestone skeletons of corals to eat the polyps inside, and moray eels hunt smaller fish in the crevices of coral cities while sea turtles swim overhead. At the end of the story, the now drenched reader stands outside the library, passing her book to other kids who eagerly open it and begin to read.


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Margaret Brady Fund scholarship applications now accepted

Area students pursuing artistic excellence may apply for scholarships as part of the Margaret Frans Brady Fund.

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