WILD, Ailsa (text) Aviva Reed (illus.) Dr. Gregory Crocetti (creator) The Squid, the Vibrio & the Moon (Small Friends #1), Scale Free Network, 2014 39pp $19.95 pbk ISBN 9780646915142 SCIS 1671216
The Squid, the Vibrio & the Moon is the first title in the Small Friends series. Developed by Melbourne’s Scale Free Network, the series focuses on the microscopic world and promotes the idea that ‘cooperation is a dominant paradigm of nature’. This first book, rich in illustrative detail, tells the story of the symbiotic relationship between the bacteria Vibrio fischeri and the Hawaiian Bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes). The book opens with two tales about the lives of these organisms, culminating in a lively episode of bioluminescence. The stories are followed by a glossary and eight pages of densely packed factual information.
The stories open with a ‘Meet the characters’ page introducing readers to two Vibrio fisheri, Ali and Mai, and a Bobtail squid, Sepio. The double-page spread also provides introductory facts about the characters, including size and anatomy, and a guide to pronouncing scientific names.
Scale Free Network’s own symbiotically structured team set itself the challenge of inspiring ‘children and adults about our small friends in the microscopic world’. My sense is that the glossary and information pages achieve this goal more effectively than the storytelling aspects of the book. The stories, told in the past tense, anthropomorphise the lives of bacteria, squids, lizardfish and monk seals, ascribing emotions like excitement, terror and boredom to these life forms. A present tense narration might have injected an emotional immediacy into the scientific realities, without the need for these projections.
The factual content in the latter part of the book, presented in words and images, links directly to the earlier stories and allows readers to delve more deeply into the workings of the microscopic world. These pages are well worth repeat readings and detailed observation. Like the stories, they are greatly enhanced by Aviva Reed’s evocatively fluid and instructive illustrations.
The Small Friends series should prove a welcome resource for home-schooling parents and for primary school teachers. It ties in particularly well with Year 4 biological science content relating to the dependency of living things ‘on each other and the environment to survive’ (ACSSU073).
Further information about the Scale Free Network and its projects is available on the network’s website. The web page for The Squid, the Vibrio & the Moon includes links to a free audio download and teaching notes.
Recommended for readers aged 8+ (or 5+ with an adult)
reviewed by Tessa Wooldridge