Bubble Homes and Fish Farts was written by Fiona Bayrock, illustrated by Carolyn Conahan, and published by Charlesbridge (2009). My copy is a sturdy paperback that looks like it would withstand much re-reading, and the delighted sharing of favourite pages.
The book presents bite-sized facts about creatures that have something to do with bubbles. From a shrew that walks on water to scuba-diving bugs, we meet bubbles used as weapons, protection and communication. Bayrock personalizes and explains facts to kids by relating them to things they'll understand. So the rattlebox moth seems to '... say "Nyah,nyah, na-nyah, nyah" to predators.' and the male gourami seems to be playing basketball when he spits eggs into his nest.
Carolyn Conahan's watercolour art is lovely. It's realistic but whimsical, if that makes sense. There is enough detail to satisfy, but an occasional animal wink or smile to accompany the speech bubbles that reveal each creature's thoughts. I love the double page fantasy spread at the beginning and end of the book - a mural of kids and critters painting and blowing bubbles on a sunny day really sets the mood for what's inside.
One of the many reasons to choose this book to share with your child is that it's an excellent model of the non-fiction information text type. Fiona Bayrock makes every single word count. Her writing is wonderfully descriptive without being flowery, and the tight, active style invites us to share the author's passion for natural science. It would also make a great choice for any dad who is uncomfortable reading fiction aloud, to share with his kids. I learnt so much from this book, and honestly believe any child or adult will marvel over each fascinating fact.
In the back of the book, there are more amazing facts about the bubble-makers featured inside, a glossary, and an acknowledgments page which impressed me, and made me fully understand the depth of research that went into creating Bubble Homes and Fish Farts.
After reading, kids might like to do some research into another theme that interests them - camouflage say - and collect facts related to their theme. Google's new Wonder Wheel feature can assist here, by helping refine search terms. Once they've decided on their facts, and written about them, encourage children to think about how best they can present those facts to others. Maybe they could also investigate the science of bubbles, read about making two metre bubbles at Instructables, or check out Fiona Bayrock's own website for some fun bubble activities.
You'll find more great reads at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub for the Nonfiction Monday Roundup.