Tag Archives nonfiction

My Review of World Without Fish

By Posted on 2 min read 1177 views

I was at my local library the other day, slowly making my way down the aisles of the children’s nonfiction section, looking for my next read. I came across World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by Frank Stockton. The title caught my attention. I don’t know much about fish, and I never thought of a world without fish before.

Mark Kurlansky is a former commercial fisherman, and he tells the story of how humans are overfishing and decimating fish populations in the world’s oceans. What effect is this having on ocean ecosystems? What if fish were to actually disappear? And maybe not all fish, but even a species or two? Mark explores the answers to these questions as well as possible solutions. He shows that addressing the problem of overfishing is not as simple as stopping all fishing and quitting eating fish. Pollution and climate change are also harming the fish populations. So what can we do about it? Mark introduces a number of existing organizations that readers can become involved with, and he also outlines steps you can take to start your own movement for change.

I learned a lot about the fishing industry, ocean ecosystems, and how sometimes scientists can draw the wrong conclusions. Mark often refers back to Darwin’s theory and it’s cool to show how older ideas like Darwin’s are still extremely useful. World Without Fish was hard for me to put down. Mark has a very engaging voice and it certainly felt like he was writing from passion and experience. I also really appreciated the visuals in the book. The text was periodically broken up by a larger, coloured font that drew your attention to important points, like this:

Also, each chapter ended with a comic that had its own story that unfolded throughout the book:

I tend to find graphic novels a bit too visually overwhelming. The balance of text and comics and playful fonts in this book was just right for me. And Frank Stockton’s artwork is fantastic.

I highly recommend this book for middle grade (ages 8-12) readers and adults, too. It really made me stop to think about the fish I eat and the fish I’ve seen on restaurant menus. It made me appreciate even more the delicate balance of life in the oceans, and that if there is unbalance, nature has a way of evening the score. It also reminded me that extinction is forever. We lose sight of this often. This book reminded me that it’s time to take a hard look at how we can do things better, before it’s too late. Mark and Frank’s book provides us with an excellent starting point and reference.


My Review of Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight to Walk

By Posted on 3 min read 913 views

A while ago a very interesting email arrived in my inbox. It was from Meredith Davis, a children’s book author from Austin, Texas. The subject line was “monarchs and strong like a butterfly.” I was intrigued! Meredith had written me a lovely email telling me she heard that I am writing a book about monarch butterflies and that her own book features the phrase, “strong like a butterfly.” In her context the phrase describes a young, brave Rwandan girl who is trying to walk. Meredith wanted to introduce herself, point out our mutual link with butterflies, and wish me luck with my books. How lovely! I am always uplifted by the kindness of strangers. And I love meeting other children’s authors.

I was excited to learn that my local bookstore carried Meredith’s book. I ran out and bought it.

Meredith’s book, published in 2019 from Scholastic Focus

Her Own Two Feet is about Rebeka Uwitonze, a young Rwandan girl who was born with arthrogryposis, a disease that caused her joints to contract, resulting in stiffness, clubfeet, and muscle atrophy in her arms. As a result, she cannot walk. Meredith and her husband, Clay, learn about Rebeka’s condition and offer to bring her to the United States where she can receive treatment that will hopefully allow her to walk on her own. Rebeka travels to America, gripping tightly to the dream of one day being able to walk and run like other children.

This book hooked me from the first page, where we learn how difficult it is for Rebeka to do such simple, taken-for-granted things like going to the bathroom. From the beginning we see how incredible Rebeka is with her determination and unbreakable spirit. We follow her on her journey to the U.S. where the culture and language are so tremendously foreign to her. I can’t imagine being plunked into a foreign land, not being able to walk or understand what other people are saying! I was especially moved at the end of each chapter, where Rebeka speaks in her mind to her younger sister, Medea, who is back in Rwanda. Through these thoughts, Rebeka’s struggles, hopes, fears, and resilience are laid bare.

Meredith’s prose is filled with love and hope. She writes with a lovely, engaging style that makes you want to keep reading until the end. She weaves in simple details that make you feel as though you’re standing right beside Rebeka, seeing the world through her eyes. You cannot help but cheer her on! With each chapter my wonder for Rebeka’s strength and resiliency grew, along with my admiration for Meredith and her family, for all of the love and support they provided for a little Rwandan girl.

Her Own Two Feet is a beautiful, uplifting story. It is all the more incredible because it is true. It illustrates the power of hope, love, and empathy for other human beings. It reminds us that the world is filled with kind and compassionate people. It also reminds us of our own inner strength, which, if we allow it, can let us overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, just like Rebeka.

Rebeka is truly a superhero. She is undoubtedly “strong like a butterfly.” May her story and inspiration be shared far and wide.