Seahorses, majestic, elegant, strange, exotic, delicate, are endangered animals. I would never have thought when I was a boy that they would one day be endangered animals. I just thought they were pretty cool, and I had a dried, preserved specimen of one as a part of my seashell collections, though they have nothing to do with shells. Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner is about one type of seahorse, in particular, that is endangered–the tiger tail seahorse–though she notes that more than 40 species of seahorses are endangered worldwide. A hallmark of the Scientists in the Field series that Project Seahorse is a part of is gorgeous color photography, and there are remarkable close-ups of seahorses photographed by Scott Tuason that really help make this book special.
Pamela S. Turner won the Cybils award for best middle grade/young adult nonfiction last year for her book The Frog Scientist. I haven’t read that one, but by the looks of Project Seahorse, I imagine that it will also be in the running to win the award. Besides the color photography, I liked reading about the efforts of scientist around the world to aid the recovery of the seahorses. Though man-made causes like pollution and blast-fishing and bottom trawling, which cause destruction of the coral reefs the animals rely upon in their life cycle, have drastically reduced the numbers of tiger tail seahorses in the Philippines, it is good to read that man is also helping them make a comeback.
The book focuses on the community of Handumon, in the Phillipines. The coral reef off the coast of the island and the seahorses living there are brilliantly photographed. I enjoyed reading about the young Filipino scientists working there as well as the efforts of other scientists, the founders of Project Seahorse, Amanda Vincent and Heather Koldeway, in saving the seahorses, and about a local fisherman, Rodrigo “Digoy” Paden, to both protect them and still ensure the livelihood of local fishing families. Protecting seahorses is important, but it should, and can, be done in a way to also not affect the income of fishermen who rely on what they catch to support their families.
Another plus of Project Seahorse is that it contains a full-page color map which places the islands in their global context and shows the range of seahorses. Also, the life cycle of the seahorse is explored, and some of the unique characteristics about them that make them such endearing animals, like the fact that it is the male seahorse who nurtures the growing embryos in his brood pouch and gives birth to their young.
There was an expression not long ago that caught people’s imaginations: “It takes a village to raise a child.” That’s kind of the same when it comes to the efforts of people like scientists to conserve endangered animals like the tiger tail seahorses. Everyone must become involved in the efforts, especially the people who live in the communities near the habitats of the endangered animals. In other words, community-based conservation is very important in efforts like Project Seahorse. Local villagers, regional and national government representatives, and even village children are shown and mentioned as being vital parts of the efforts to save the seahorses. I liked that the author pointed out that children can have an affect in saving endangered animals like the seahorses, by writing about and showing photographs of village children replanting mangrove trees.
Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner will entrance you with its beautiful photographs of tiger tail seahorses, and educate you with its message that conservation measures can help rescue these creatures from the brink of extinction. I learned a lot about seahorses in general and the tiger tail seahorse in particular that I didn’t know before, and you will, too. This book is one I’d highly recommend to kids who are interested in nature, strange but beautiful animals, and also to middle-school age students and their teachers. It would make a great addition to a classroom unit on biology, marine conservation, and endangered sea life. Also, I, as a parent, enjoyed reading it and marveled at the photographs, and I would recommend it highly to any parents who are looking for great, colorful educational books to give to their children.