Review: Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish by Lara Hawthorne
Alba loves all things beautiful and shiny, and it is her pleasure to bring her treasures back to her coral reef home. Over the years her collection grows. One day, she realises there aren’t so many fish as there used to be. In fact, the coral isn’t looking so healthy either, and instead of shiny treasures, she can only find strange and horrible rubbish.
When Alba gets trapped in a plastic bottle which washes up on a beach, a little girl decides it is time to act. With the help of her community, she makes part of the ocean a healthier place for Alba to live again.
This story was inspired by a rough-eye rockfish which lived until 205 years old. It was also inspired by the changes which the ocean has undergone in that time. Changes which are entirely down to human activity.
Birds are dying with plastic in their stomach. Dolphins are getting caught in plastic debris. The list of animals harmed by plastic goes on and on, but even with growing awareness of the problem, it will take something else for humans to commit to a real change. It takes empathy. Learning to care about the environment from a young age has never been more important and story plays a key role in nurturing empathy. Soon awareness campaigns won’t be enough. The next generation needs to care about the world without being told.
I love the illustrations which lay out the changes Alba has seen in the ocean. A colourful world or a grey one. The choice is as simple as that.
That’s not to say this book is all agenda. It is a gentle story which shows the difference one determined person can make. It also gives us a look at the coral reef and underwater world in all its colourful glory.
Lara Hawthorne is one of my favourite illustrators of recent years. She makes eye-catching use of colour and pattern. These are the type of pictures which I look over and over to spot more detail. This would make a lovely book to share at bedtime just because every picture opens up a whole new conversation. ‘Did you spot the diamond? Which fish is your favourite?’ It is a real book for sharing.
This would also be a lovely book to encourage children to draw underwater pictures. It shows shells and corals and fish in their infinite shapes and colours.
Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish may have a strong message, but it isn’t an awareness campaign. It is the sort of book which promotes true empathy and love. I’m a big fan and I can see this being a huge hit we look to start more conversations about plastic pollution.
Thanks to Big Picture Press and Molly Holt for my copy of Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish. Opinions my own.