Sunday, June 19, 2016

Don't Call Me Ugly! The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien

Scientists study sea life miles beneath the surface. Submersibles are underwater vehicles used to explore the deepest parts of the ocean.

The blobfish was voted the ugliest animal....



It's hard to be a science writer when the animals you study want to be the star of the show. And this deep sea critter is determined to make the argument for his side, in Jessica Olien's just published The Blobfish Book (Balzer and Bray, 2016).

Blobfish bursts right into the scholarly text. Just as author Olien is holding forth on epipelagic zones in the ocean, he interrupts to defend his looks. He's soft and curvy, his nose is snubbed, and hey! he's pink. What's not to like?

See, there's a lot of pressure on animals below 13,000 feet! Blobfish defends his shape, pointing out that there are plenty of creatures who are uglier. How about the giant spider crab with twelve-foot legs, huh? How about anglerfish with those ugly sharp teeth and that silly little dangling thingie sprouting from his upper lip? And that northern stoplight loosejaw is certainly not just another pretty face, either, especially when he throws that lower mandible out of joint to gobble some hapless fishie! After all, if you live in the abyssa pelagic zone, you've got to make a few cosmetic adaptations.


Author Olien manages to squeeze in some enlightening factoids along the way, but as the cover indicates, Blobfish forces his way into the narration and becomes the main attraction, Olien sets her crayoned cartoons on top of the factual text in a nifty parody of the serious science nature study book, furthering the metafictional spoof with a realistic book card and pocket as the frontispiece for the text and offering an informational appendix of  "Deep Sea Facts," and a bibliography as backmatter. As a fun alternative to serious sources for a classroom unit on deep sea life, Olien's The Blobfish Book slips in reinforcement of some key concepts while offering a memorable diversion.

Pair this one with Jess Keating's nonfiction exploration of the pinkanista persuasion, Pink Is For Blobfish: Discovering the World's Perfectly Pink Animals (The World of Weird Animals)

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