Monday, October 30, 2017

Amazon Adventure by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Keith Ellenbogen

Scientists in the Field is always doing something new; breaking new ground in showing the real lives and research of scientists, including a diversity of opinions and experiences by including non-Western perspectives and the lives and concerns of locals and how science and research affects them. This latest book continues that tradition by combining science, economics, and culture to show readers how something as small as aquarium fish can have a big impact on the lives of people.

Author Sy Montgomery, photographer Keith Ellenbogen, and aquarist Scott Dowd introduce readers to a small community on the banks of the Amazon river. Supported by the capture and export of piabas, small, brightly-colored fish, the community faces many challenges. Competing breeders in the US, the struggle to safely and humanely export fish, and well-meaning aquarists who are trying to avoid wild-caught fish. Montgomery weaves together the color and excitement of a local festival, the Scott Dowd's own journey as a scientist, the lives of locals, and a wider picture of the Amazon rainforest and it's current state to create a strong, multi-faceted narrative.

I really want to push this book at kid and parents and say READ THIS. It's all about science, making the world a better place, learning about other cultures! But it's hard to get kids, who often don't have the reading ability to tackle a challenging title like this, to relate to a book set so far away from their small town, midwestern lives. It's not often that a kid will pick this up on their own, when they'd rather read fantasy, or comics, or scary books, or National Geographic factoids. This is when I feel lucky that I have such a great relationship with our school district, teachers and librarians. They have gate-keeping abilities that I don't, as well as more access to kids. When I get requests for selections of high-level reading materials, science narratives, and research topics, I can use my expertise to recommend books like Amazon Adventure, which teachers aren't familiar with, and so get them into the hands - and hopefully minds - of readers.

Verdict: This is a powerful and hopeful book, full of interesting stories about the lives of people, scientists, and the river that they need to survive. It's one I definitely want to have on hand to recommend to the right reader and the right teacher to get it into the hands of kids who will be the future aquarists, authors, and scientists.

ISBN: 9780544352995; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin; Purchased for the library

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