World Without Fish is a beautiful book about a grim situation.
Artist Frank Stockton graces it with lovely, full-page illustrations of undersea life and charming drawings for "The Story of Kram and Ailat," a father-daughter tale told in comic-book-style panels throughout the book.
Mark Kurlansky, bestselling nonfiction author (Cod and Salt) and former commercial fisherman, skillfully tells the all-too-true story of the urgent state to which overfishing, pollution and global warming have brought the oceans: They are in mortal danger, and that means we are, too.
World Without Fish is intended for kids age 9 and up, and Kurlansky does a splendid job explaining the importance of biodiversity — and the importance of realizing that humans are part of nature, not apart from it. Everything is connected, which means not only that our actions always have an impact on the environment, but that when we damage the chain of life, as we are doing in the oceans, we put ourselves at risk, too.
He offers a concise history of the fishing industry and outlines how industrialization and technology dramatically altered the balance between humans and the seas we harvest. He relates overfishing disaster stories like the fates of the orange roughy and the Chilean sea bass, the long-lasting destruction caused by oil spills and islands of floating plastic garbage, the huge impact of melting glaciers that change the salt content of seawater.
But he doesn't just tell this story to depress kids. World Without Fish also explains that there is no single, simple solution to this problem (even halting all fishing wouldn't do it), but that there are things everyone, including kids, can do to turn the tide. The book offers a chapter of specific actions, from helping your family make sustainable choices at the seafood counter to joining environmental groups.
World Without Fish lays out the causes and consequences of a complex problem that we ignore at our peril, and does it so clearly that even grownups can understand.
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435.