From Tilbury House . . . Stars and Fishes Charm Children in New Books
Thursday, December 18, 2014 9:12 AM
A boy, out with this father in a rowboat, leaned over the side and noticed sudden bright, bold flashes of silver - first one, then another - and then the dark backs.
At right, illustration from “Swimming Home”
"Dad!" he said. "The alewives are here!"
Illustrator Rebekah Raye and writer Susan Hand Shetterly teamed up on "Swimming Home," a children's book for ages 6 to 11 that was recently published by Tilbury House Publishers in Thomaston. The book, which details the spring journey of a school of alewives, the dangers they dodge on the way upstream, and the young boy who helps them get home to Lily Lake, is scientifically accurate and dynamically illustrated from the viewpoint of a fish.
As explained in the afterword, alewives were once so plentiful that they were said to turn coastal bays silver during May, when they were caught by the bushel and smoked. Their numbers have declined over the past few decades, due in part to obstructions like dams that the fish could not get past as they fought their way upstream to spawn. Alewife runs are now modestly increasing in areas where fish ladders allow them passage upstream.
Fran Hodgkins' new children's book "The Secret Galaxy," also from Tilbury, is built around a collection of photographs of the night sky, many of them by Maine astrophotographer Mike Taylor. The images are contrasted with interesting tidbits of lore (in China, the Milky Way is called the Silver River) and fact (in the time it takes you to read this, you have moved two miles due to the earth's rotation).