Review of ‘The Squid, the Vibrio and the Moon’
When I get Science based books, as much as I adore them, I pass them over the back fence for my scientist neighbour to review for me! A million thanks Sam – it’s perfect to have the thoughts of someone who is passionate about the world of Science.
Reviewer: Dr Sam Lloyd
Title: ‘The Squid, the Vibrio and the Moon’
Author/Illustrator/Creators: Ailsa Wild, Aviva Reed, Briony Barr and Gregory Crocetti with Linda Blackall
Publisher/Production: CSIRO Publishing (2019) in partnership with Small Friends Books, an art-science collaborative called the Scale Free Network and The Australian Society for Microbiology.
Themes: bobtail squid, bioluminescent bacteria, symbiosis, ocean, moon, microbiology.
Click on title links or cover image to purchase.
So, I was very excited to receive a copy of ‘The Squid, the Vibrio & the Moon’, knowing it was written by the creative team at Scale Free Network, also behind the beautiful publication ‘Zobi and the Zoox’. Originally published in 2014, and receiving high praise from none other than David Suzuki, this extensively reworked version is published by CSIRO in partnership with Small Friends Books and the Scale Free Network. As with ‘Zobi and the Zoox’, the story is an engaging narrative fiction soundly based in science – but fortunately for those of us not entirely across our microbiology, it includes a comprehensive glossary and scientific reference section. Whilst the story is probably pitched at the 5 – 10 age group, the science section is so beautifully done and comprehensive, that I think it could assist late primary/early high school students better understand symbiosis, microbiology and marine organisms.
The story centres on the symbiotic relationship between Ali the Vibrio fischeri bacterium and Sepio the bobtail squid (a super cute, mini-sized squid from Hawaii that can fit in the palm of your hand) and how they come together. This relationship is very important, because the presence of bacteria in Sepio makes him glow, which is vital to his survival. We join Sepio as he navigates the predatory dangers of the ocean, learn how Ali and Sepio help each other (i.e. symbiosis) and why glowing is important.
A note about art: I am no art expert, but I know what I like and I certainly see in my own children what appeals and captures their attention…and in this book I think it is the clever use of art to make a complex biological relationship understandable and interesting. The illustrations have an inviting watercolour quality with muted tones that give the impression of being under the sea. The illustrations are detailed where they need to be, with plenty of labels to name things and help explain what is happening. The informative illustrations in the science reference section are particularly good, with enough detail and explanation to articulate complex and sophisticated biological concepts to little people (and big people).
A note about the science: The story in this book is only a small part of what’s on offer – it’s really a mechanism for engaging children in science. Symbiotic relationships are essential to life on earth and typically beneficial to one or more of the organisms involved (but they may also be harmful, as in parasitism). Beneficial examples include corals (made up of rhizobia bacterium, photosynthetic zooxanthellae algae and the host coral polyp); pollination (pollinator receives food and the plant is pollinated) and people and the “good” bacteria living in our gut. But my favourite part is understanding how bobtail squid and Vibrio fischeri bacteria make light – understanding how any organism glows has a magical quality, be it glow worms, anglerfish or fireflies (see ‘Bonkers about Beetles’ which I reviewed for Children’s Books Daily here). This amazing symbiotic relationship has evolved over millions of years and certainly highlights that creatures we often think of as “simple” are generally highly complex.
For general information on symbiosis for kids I found the Britannica Kids website excellent.
Dr Samantha Lloyd is an ecologist and environmental manager with a passion for the Australian bush, children’s literature, dance, music and baking.
Having graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Science (Biology), 1st Class Honours in 1998 and a PhD (pollination ecology) in 2006, Sam has worked as an environmental manager for the SEQ regional NRM body; as an entomologist for the Australian and New Zealand Fire Ant Control Programs; and as Coordinator of the Moreton Bay Oil Spill Environmental Restoration Program.
Sam’s long-standing daytime gig is as Manager of the South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, with bushfire ecology and awareness being another of her passions.