Sharks up Close by Jim Abernethy and Jennifer R. Nolan

Sharks up Close by Jim Abernethy and Jennifer R Nolan. Photography by Jim Abernethy

I have an interesting habit of buying books and not reading them for an untold amount of time, and that includes my nonfiction library as well. I buy books on sale, when I visit local bookshops and aquariums, or if I have coupons I want to use. I really do want to read the books—I swear! Sometimes my attention gets taken by something else.

Sharks up Close was one of those books that I bought from an aquarium a few years ago, and the other day I finally sat down to read it. The book is written by Jim Abernethy and Jennifer R. Nolan with a forward written by Shawn Heinrichs, another photographer and conservationist. However, it’s not Shawn’s photos that the book uses. All the photography is done by Jim Abernethy himself, and let me tell you, his photos are gorgeous.

I met Jim Abernethy during my early years of college when he had been giving a talk on sharks and his own journey with conservation. His talk was so inspiring, I just had to have Sharks up Close to help show support.

The book is very easy to follow and was obviously written for a younger audience, but I would argue that adults will find it interesting as well. Each topic is introduced by asking a question. The topics range from anatomy to behavior to conservation. The language is very straightforward, they do a wonderful job talking about each topic without using too much technical jargon.

I really enjoyed the question-answer format, because a lot of the questions in the book I’ve been asked by other people. It was very helpful to read and I think it may help out parents as well, especially if their children are enthusiastic about sharks!

Towards the end of the book, it talks about conservation efforts and the nature of shark finning. It’s not an easy topic to read about, personally, I find it horrific whenever I read about the issue. That topic may be tough on some kids, especially with some of the photos. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terribly graphic but it may upset some of the more sensitive readers. The book ends on a positive note by listing ways in which we can help with shark conservation.

I recommend this book as a gift for anyone interested in sharks. The photography is amazing and the language is very easy to understand. I believe it would be a perfect gift for a child, and an interesting book to read together!


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