Do you like snakes? Have you met The Dude (resident snake at Civic Centre Resource Library)? He’s adorable and is sure to change your mind about snakes, if your answer to the first question was “no”! If you’re not quite up to using exposure to get you over your fear of snakes, then maybe this book will do the trick: I (Don’t) Like Snakes by Nicola Davies (who is also the author of Poop, Tiny Creatures, Extreme Animals, and Just Ducks!, to name a few), illustrated by Luciano Lozano.
This is kind of an odd book, in that I’m not sure whether it’s supposed to fall within the picture book market or the junior non-fiction one, because while there’s a story to it and it’s definitely a book filled with illustrations, Davies also includes lots of information about snakes, from the way they move around to how they molt their skin. One thing’s for sure though: the illustrations are adorable. And! The moral of the story, I think, is not only that snakes are awesome, though they are (maybe in both the colloquial and traditional sense of the word, at that), but that sometimes, hatred stems from ignorance, and that’s a takeaway message filled with hope and a healthy dose of optimism, because that’s something we can take into our own hands – all the more so at the library!
I’m going to move onto a number of books about snakes so that once I (Don’t) Like Snakes starts up your curiosity for all things anguine, you’ll be able to whet your appetite with some of the following.
Have I mentioned I really like corvids?* They’re such beautiful birds, and they seem to have a pretty bad reputation all around that I’m not sure they deserve. Sure, they can be a bit scary, especially when you’re encountering a murder of crows, since they can grow quite large individually and it seems all the more as a group, and they’re scavengers so sometimes you might see one hunkering down over roadkill and tearing it to pieces, but they’re also such smart birds! (Or perhaps that makes them even more terrifying?)
I’m going to start off with The Wolf-Birds, because this book truly shines in illustrating how wolves and ravens (can) form a symbiotic relationship that is mutually beneficial for both species, using text and illustration that likewise work together to tell the story. It’s a delightful picture book with beautiful illustrations and a truly lovely pace: the story ebbs and flows as the hunt continues for both the wolves and the ravens, showing how each animal plays its part in the natural progression of things. Willow Dawson completes the story with a page at the end with information about ravens and why they are also called wolf-birds, detailing the symbiotic relationship between wolves and ravens, where both groups benefit from the interaction, contrasted with parasitic situations where ravens simply steal from the wolves without giving back.
Now, I haven’t actually read The Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts, but it’s been on my (never-ending) to-read list and it relates to this week’s topic, so I’m going to let this be the introduction. Perhaps you’ll notice that I started off the series talking about all the wonders of the ocean and what it has to offer us, before coming around to talk about what we have wrought upon the ocean (and how we might be able to undo some of the damage we have caused). Perhaps you’ll notice that I mentioned earlier in the series, at the very beginning, how there seems to be a formulaic approach to writing books about marine life, and that I’m adhering to that formula 100%. But given that we’ve covered what lives in the ocean, I think it’s really only fair to talk about the ocean itself, because that mass of water is amazing in its own right. And frankly, it would be entirely remiss of me and the authors below to talk about the ocean without talking about the horrors we’ve inflicted upon it.
Roberts starts off with a history of the ocean and how people around the world have interacted with it and its inhabitants throughout the years, starting with how various cultures around the world have depended on molluscs and fish to varying degrees to supplement their diet. However, our relationship to the fish living within the ocean has changed dramatically, and this is painfully clear from a couple of graphs that appear in the first section, which illustrate, among other things, how people working in the fishing industry now have to put in about 17x more effort (as of The Ocean of Life publication in 2012) to catch the same amount of fish. This is despite – or perhaps precisely because of – improvements in fishing technology that allow us to find fish more easily and (in theory) catch more fish while expending less effort. Of course, trawling, which completely destroys delicate ecosystems and produces an underwater wasteland, is not the only factor in the decrease in marine life: chemical pollutants and waste such as plastic bags also play their part.
Doom and gloom constitute the first part of the book, so what follows in part 2 is, perhaps necessarily, the hope of recovering our oceans. The book ends, however, on a somewhat gloomy note, preparing for the downward slide that is the health of our ocean. How can we adapt to these changing conditions in the ocean, and what will become of both the ocean and us if we are to refuse to make an effort to bring about change?
The following books also discuss the ocean and how humans have affected it, but perhaps more importantly – or not, since I personally think it’s pretty important in and of itself rather than in its relation to people – how these changes to ocean chemistry have in turn come back to bite us. They are an ode to the ocean of life.