A Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks by Bernard Séret

Cover of A little Book of Knowledge: Sharks by Bernard Séret and illustrated by Julien Solé

On Earth Day 2020, I read two books: World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky with illustrations by Frank Stockton, and A Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks by Bernard Séret and illustrated by Julien Solé. I’ve already talked about the first book, so now let me talk about this little book about sharks.

When it says little, they mean it, with a short forward this book has about 82 pages of content and fits in a small bag. Originally written in French, this book was recently translated to English and they added a forward by David Vandermeulen that explains some of the history behind our current shark hysteria. The translations are pretty good, I almost forgot they weren’t written in English.

Truly an unique read, I don’t think I’ve read anything like this before. Imagine a documentary on sharks where the focus is on a leading French marine biologist roaming around as he speaks. Now, imagine that documentary in the form of a comic book and that’s what this book is. A Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks takes scientific literature and combines it with a graphic novel to create something new.

The illustrations are beautiful! Julien Solé did a wonderful job portraying the sharks with such detail, but not too much to distract from the rest of the book. The coloring is simple, and they depict so many different kinds of sharks and scenarios. Truly, this alone could entertain young children for hours!

Unfortunately, even though it is written like a graphic novel, I believe that children may have a hard time understanding the language of the book. There will probably be some terms and concepts that might even be hard for some adults to get right away. But this in itself isn’t a bad thing because it provides an opportunity for people to learn more on their own. Let me explain.

Something I’ve noticed with the many young people that I’ve encountered over the years is that they know a lot more than you think, especially if they’re crazy about it. I once had a conversation with an 8 year old child who knew more about the wobbegong (an Australian shark) than I did, even knew the scientific name, diet, and relationship with the Aborigines. They were so excited to talk to someone about the shark, especially someone they knew could follow along and talk back to them about it. I tell this story because I see this book sparking similar interests in other children.

I believe that this book can spark the interest of thousands of children with the illustrations alone—they’re absolutely fabulous! Even if the young person doesn’t understand the harder terminology, I believe that the sparked interest will eventually lead them to finding out what they mean on their own and that’s wonderful. Nothing brings me more joy than knowing that someone doesn’t just stop after the first step, that they continue finding out information on their own or with additional help and I believe that’s the purpose of this book.

I recommend it as a gift for any child you think might love sharks. They will enjoy the illustrations, and it’ll give you an excuse to help them learn more things together. I recommend that any parent or older adult reads this book with their kids so that you can share a new found love for sharks, because they are truly amazing creatures. Yes, some of the more complex topics might be hard to understand but hopefully the illustrations will help. In the end, I think it’ll be worth it.


World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky

Cover of the book: World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky and illustrated by Frank Stockton

For Earth Day 2020 I decided to go for most of the day without electronics. For a whole day I went without my tablet, my laptop, and a TV. For half of the day, from 5pm-midnight, I kept my phone off.

What did I do with all of this sudden free time? I spent my morning outside cleaning up the yard, the weather was quite nice after a few days of rain. Then I spent the rest of the day reading.

One of the books I read was World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky with illustrations by Frank Stockton. It’s an interesting book about the history of fishing, focusing on commercial fishing in the ocean, how overfishing became a problem, and the dangers of overfishing.

The language is easy enough to understand for anyone in middle grade school and above, and the author does a wonderful job explaining more complex issues in a way that others would be able to understand. The illustrations help to break up long sections of information, and they’re rather nice to look at.

Inside the book, there is also a several part comic that follows the story of a dad and daughter, eventually showing the future of a fishless sea. Not gonna lie, the comic is depressing and it didn’t really hit me until the end. Still, it’s a creative way to show a possible future if we don’t do something about unsustainable fishing now.

Overall, I would recommend this book to everyone I can. Not only is it a good history o commercial fishing, but it provides insights as to how fishing became a problem and that fishermen are not at the root of it all. In fact, it shows that both sides made mistakes and that both sides want to fix the problem. It also looks at all the viable options for sustainable fishing practices and the science behind each. And finally, it gives information on how we the consumers can help promote sustainable fishing by shopping for the right products.

Mark Kurlansky gives the readers all sorts of information on how to learn more about supporting sustainable fishing, including what labels to look out for, websites for more information, and even a pamphlet that you can cut out and carry with you.

For those who want to take it a step beyond the grocery store, especially grade schoolers who want to do more, he provides steps you can take to promote sustainable fish. Including, how to protest and bring up the issue in your local stores and restaurants while still being civil, making proactive groups at school, and how to bring it to the attention of the government.

Again, World Without Fish is an insightful read that brings to light a possible future that we can see in our lifetime. It’s a call for change, and it provides resources on how to act now in peaceful ways. I recommend it to everyone. I also recommend that parents and children read it together. There’s always hope, and it starts with us.

“All life on earth is interconnected, and altered circumstances will change the order of life at sea, which will also change life on land. And all of this can and will have an enormous impact on our lives” ~Mark Kurlansky, pg. xvii

Earth Day 2020

Hello and welcome to Siren’s Call on this special day, the 50th Earth Day! Half a century ago, the planet was in rough shape. Oil spills on a regular basis, overpowering smog, and horribly polluted rivers were just a few problems we experienced back then. In fact, there were reports of rivers being so polluted with toxic waste and garbage that they actually caught fire. We’re only supposed to see burning rivers in fantasies and renditions of Hell. My mother still remembers the Smog Alert days from when she lived in LA as a young kid. On those days, the air quality was so bad that’s students weren’t allowed to play outside at recess. People had enough and decided to speak out! On April 22, 1970, more than 20 million Americans−people from all walks of life−took to the streets and college campuses across the United States. They demanded that we as a people and as a government change how we treat our planet and to do it NOW! That first Earth Day, and all who participated, are credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The Clean Air, Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts—all vital pieces of legislation—were passed in direct response and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was born. Now, 50 years later, many other countries have joined us in passing similar environmental laws. And even in these difficult times, people from all over the world are joining together and doing what they can while trying to stay safe. For this Earth Day, I’ve decided to launch Siren’s Call as my ongoing project. Here, you can read daily postings of the ocean, its species, environments, processes, and more. I will also share ways in which you can help the environment. My goal is to make this blog a guilt free space. Not everyone can change their lives 100% to make it better for the environment. Believe me, I understand, because I can’t change my life 100% either. That’s why I plan to share the little ways you can help, and let you decide what’s comfortable, or best, for you. In the end, it’s better to have a thousand people do a bunch of little things than to have a hundred people do major things. There’s a surprising amount you can accomplish within the bounds of your own comfort in regard to your health, safety, economics, traditions, and values. The point of Earth Day and the environmental movement is that you do what you can, and not feel guilty about what you can’t. We’re in this together. What you can’t do someone else might be able to, and we achieve the greatest success when we see ourselves as a team.

Things you can do for Earth Day 2020

Here are some things you can do on Earth Day in your free time, even while staying at home.

Because of the worldwide pandemic, we can’t celebrate Earth Day in person together, but we can still do so virtually. The Earth Day website (https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/) features all sorts of resources. You can participate in virtual events, help to advocate for change, and even find creative ways to participate in citizen science.

You can also take a look at the Earth Day Ecochallenge (https://earthday.ecochallenge.org/). There you can find activities that you can do on Earth Day or continue doing afterward. They have resources that allow you to discover what’s feasible for you and to help you do those activities.

Both of these websites allow you to do things on your own or with other people, and they provide great information. I’m excited for any chance to participate in citizen science, which basically allows people to help gather information and data for scientists to use—it’s a great way to work together!

If you can’t do either of those things, for whatever reason, don’t sweat it! Here’s a list of other things you can do if you’re comfortable.

  1. Keep the lights off.

Try keeping all the lights off in your home during the day. If you need to use them because, for example, a room has no natural light source, then make sure you turn off the light every time you leave the room.

  • Spend time away from your phone.

Pick a set amount of time—it can be half an hour, hour, whole day, etc.—and turn off your phone. If your phone is turned off, then the battery isn’t draining, and you don’t need to expend energy to charge it.

  • Spend some time away from electronics.

For whatever amount of time, you choose, turn off your TV, video game systems, computers, etc. Unplug them if you wish. And then do something that doesn’t require electricity for that duration, such as taking a walk, reading a physical book, or writing a letter.

  • Do something outside

If you have the ability to do it safely, go outside. Pull some weeds. Organize the tool shed or the garage. Take a walk around the yard. Do some bird watching. The app iNaturalist (https://www.inaturalist.org/) allows you to identify and track birds and other living things, and it makes the information you collect available to scientists. I have been using the app since the New Year. The website even has a page for ways to explore nature from the safety of your home (http://www.inaturalist.org/blog/31664-exploring-nature-when-you-re-stuck-at-home)!

  • Make your meals in the house; don’t get anything delivered.

This one might be difficult, especially for people who want to help their local restaurants stay in business, but if you can abstain from obtaining food from outside your home this will help limit the carbon emissions put into the air today. Try making your own meals, and save the eating-out money for another day. If you don’t already possess the necessary ingredients, then please don’t feel obligated to try this idea.

These are just a few examples of the many things you can do to help our planet. If they are beyond your means or comfort zone, please don’t feel bad! This is a guilt free space, remember? If you come up with something else, do that instead, and share your ideas with your family, friends, and in the comment section below. Whatever level of Earth Day participation you’re comfortable with will earn a big thumbs-up from me! If you decide that these practices weren’t so bad, remember that you can do these anytime throughout the year.