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The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs

Kate Messner, Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Chronicle Books
48 pp.
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With sparing words and mesmerizing, soft-colored paintings, The Brilliant Deep tells the story of Ken Nedimyer, an American fish collector and “live rock farmer” who found a way to restore the world’s coral reefs by growing coral colonies in underwater nurseries and then planting them onto dying reefs.

Nedimyer has long loved the ocean. One of the book’s most memorable images shows him as a boy, looking out over the sea, all its secrets hidden beneath the surface. On the next page, he is snorkeling through an underwater world teeming with life. We follow along as he learns to scuba dive and begins to collect fish to study in aquariums at home.

As an adult, Nedimyer uses his expertise with growing “living rocks”—rocks covered with sponges and other invertebrates that are used in aquariums—to cultivate coral. The book ends on a note of hope as Nedimyer and his organization, the Coral Restoration Foundation, begin to help other countries save their reefs as well.

The simple scientific explanations given throughout the book are easy to understand and are woven into the story in a way that does not distract. However, the main text does not mention climate change or other human threats. A two-page spread at the end merely cites complicated reasons, including changing ocean temperatures and overfishing, for the decline of coral reefs. This is a missed opportunity. Nevertheless, I can only recommend this beautiful and inspiring book, which shows what love for nature combined with human ingenuity can achieve.

About the author

The reviewer is a Deputy editor at Science.