Whale Fall Café

Tilbury. Apr. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780884488491.
Gr 3-5–Whales can live for a century in the wild, but what happens next? Join Dr. Fish in their submersible to explore a “whale fall,” the term used to describe a whale carcass, as it drifts to the ocean floor and supports diverse life forms for decades. Readers learn about the phases of whale decomposition, as the body transforms from a meal for sharks and barracudas near the ocean’s surface into sedimentary food for microorganisms and invertebrates. The text explains that thousand-year-old whale bones have been found encrusted with thriving anemones. Specialized scientific information (“extremophiles,” “osedax,” “chemoautotrophic bacteria,” etc.) is presented in a way that will make sense to readers. However, the text paired with gentle illustrations that soften the reality of a whale’s death (hagfish rendered in pinks and purples; a whale pictured upside down with its eyes shut) seems geared for a younger audience and makes it hard to visualize what a true whale fall, and the scavengers and specialists who make it their home, look like in the wild. Back matter includes photographs and a glossary. This unique title joins the ranks of nonfiction works about unpleasant animals, including Pink Is for Blobfish and What Do They Do with All That Poo??
VERDICT A second purchase, but one that will satisfy readers interested in more esoteric nonfiction topics.

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