It's a bittersweet day here on the Pink Me couch. The season's changing, the pool has closed. We recently made the not-difficult-at-all decision to finally ditch this bony old beast for a new couch, one with padding in all the right places, one with cushions that have yet to be vomited on. It's an exciting moment, but I can't help wondering if we will be as happy on the new couch as we have been on the - truly repulsive - Jennifer Convertibles sofa that I bought in New York so many years ago. The frog-printed slipcover will be going too.
Will our crazy pillows fit on it? Will we all fit on it? The boys are getting bigger, and nowadays much more likely to be buried in a D&D manual than in a Hardy Boys mystery.
Added to this seasonal introspection is a sliver of bad news that has hit our family unexpectedly hard: Charley, the World's Oldest Living Brine Shrimp, has died.
That's Charley, the little orange thing laying on the gravel at the bottom of his EcoSphere.
Now granted, Charley didn't add much to the general discourse. We didn't have to train him, we couldn't teach him tricks, heck, we didn't even have to feed him - he lived in a sealed environment, in perfect symbiosis with the algae, water, that stick, and, apparently, his own waste and the remains of the other brine shrimp that was in the sphere when I bought it. Yeeurgh. Moving on.
Anyway, the point to Charley was that he lived a very long time, for a brine shrimp. He was older than both of our kids and both our cats. He moved with us three times. He was almost as old as that damn couch.
I bought Charley in his 3" ecosphere as a gift for my husband at the American Museum of Natural History gift shop on my last day working for that great museum in 1998. Of the two brine shrimp, one died right away, perhaps shocked by the rough treatment he or she received at the hands of my husband's co-workers. A manager at New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Bob had at least one subordinate who was convinced the ecosphere was a snowglobe. Whenever she came into his office, she would grab Charley's globe and give it a vigorous shake, as Bob would reflexively surge toward her.
Since moving to Baltimore in 2002, Charley's existence has been more peaceful. We left him resting on a little basket on top of a high piece of furniture. He survived both of my children in their curious-toddler phases, two really stupid cats who could not figure out the whole 'glass is transparent and yet not permeable' thing, a few hurricanes, and our recent earthquake.
Thirteen years. Pretty good for a brine shrimp. NOT as impressive, of course, as the animals featured in the series I am reviewing for Nonfiction Monday today. These overachieving freaks, not content with their (comparatively) enormous size and exciting, event-rich lives, sport evolutionary adaptations like transparency, bioluminescence, electrical conductivity, and physiological color change.
I wouldn't ordinarily review a series on Pink Me, but I've just finished submitting my contributions to School Library Journal's nonfiction series supplement Series Made Simple (watch for it in November!) and I'm feeling like I can evaluate a nonfiction series in my sleep.
Eight species per volume are profiled in this high-interest biology series for middle grade readers. Peppy writing ("Zap -- dinner is served!") and information-rich captions draw the reader into the text, while colorful, dramatic photos keep the pages turning.
Ugh, never mind. Writing like that isn't much fun. The books in this series use only stock photography, which always bugs me, though it doesn't seem to bother kids all that much. The design is ok - the color schemes selected for each title are especially pleasing - and the writing is accessible without feeling dumbed-down.
I'd welcome this series in my library simply because I like weird animals, and I know lots of kids who do too. But it's not blowing me away. If there were a series from National Geo on the same animals, I'd pick that one over this one, and surely if there were monographs on New Zealand glowworms or glass jellyfish, I'd rather purchase them - I find that single-subject books work better for kids who need info for reports than do these little compendia.
But what I was really looking for was a book on brine shrimp. It made me a little sad that there isn't one. Sorry, Charley.
UPDATE!!! I just heard back from the manufacturers of Charley's sealed habitat and it all this time the little fella that we thought was a brine shrimp was not a brine shrimp at all! Charley was in fact the World's Oldest Living Hawaiian Volcano Shrimp! So strange - the shrimp I thought I knew was not the shrimp living under our roof all this time.
Nonfiction Monday is hosted today at Wrapped in Foil.