________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 21. . . .June 12, 2009.


Bubble Homes and Fish Farts.

Fiona Bayrock. Illustrated by Carolyn Conahan.
Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing, 2009.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).(US).
ISBN 978-1-57091-670-0 (pbk.)
ISBN 978-1-57091-669-4 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Animals-Juvenile literature.
Bubbles-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.





Snap! Pop! Pop-pop! Day and night, snapping shrimp in coral reefs slam their snapper claws shut. They do it to communicate, to scare animals away, and to catch prey. But the loud sound is made by a bubble, not the parts of the claw hitting each other. When the snapper claw closes, water squirts out of it. The water moves so fast (about 60 mph, or 100 km/hr) that a bubble forms. The bubble quickly collapses into itself with great force. It’s this implosion- like an explosion, but inward- that makes the sound. A colony of shrimp pop-pop-popping away makes quite a racket. In fact, sometimes it’s so loud it gets in the way of U.S. Navy sonar.

Creative, innovative and entertaining, Bubble Homes and Fish Farts examines the many different ways that animals use bubbles. Sailing, running, breathing, keeping warm, playing, fishing, talking, hiding and nesting: these are but a few. Children will immediately be drawn to the book by its catchy title- after all, what youngster can resist a book with the word “fart” in the title? Sixteen animals, representative of various groups (some examples include whales, spiders, otters, snails, herring and moths), are featured, with a double-page spread devoted to each. At the top of the page is a heading, indicating the purpose for the bubbles, followed by the common and scientific names of the animal. There is no white space around the text. Rather, a single, large paragraph is printed on the painted background that features the animal in its natural habitat. A speech “bubble” or two add humour to the text.

     internal artAmong other things, readers will learn how snails sail along on bubble rafts, how otters stay warm thanks to air bubbles that are trapped in their dense underhairs, and how the team effort of humpback whales enables them to catch schools of fish. But, perhaps, the fact that most readers will want to know is how herrings use “FaRTs” (which actually stands for Fast Repetitive Ticks) to communicate. Unlike true flatulence which is caused by digesting food, the gas comes from air gulped at the surface. Scientists believe that herrings “talk” to each other by FaRTing when it’s too dark to see. Who knew that bubbles could have so many purposes? At the back of the book there is additional information- habitat, size, and a paragraph explaining an “amazing” fact about each of the animals featured in the book.

     The illustrations, rendered in what appears to be watercolour, in pastel shades of blue, green, taupe and gray, not only suit the text but also the blurry underwater world and the fragile bubbles. A combination glossary and index provides the definitions of 14 words and the page numbers on which they can be found.

     A refreshingly unique perspective on a simple theme.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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