The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Jellyfish are fascinating. Ali Benjamin uses them to great affect in her novel about a girl, Suzy, who is grieving for her best friend who drowned in the ocean. A strong swimmer, Suzy believes that an Irukandji jellyfish was more likely the cause. This deadly little jellyfish, only the size of a fingernail, has one of the most dangerous venoms. It is thought that it has been the cause of deaths mistakenly attributed to other causes. As Suzy investigates jellyfish she finds that global warming has encouraged the Irukandji’s migration from the coast of Australia to as far north as the British coast. Her explanation for her friends death is plausible.
As Suzy investigates jellyfish for her science report we learn about the scientific method, Diana Nyad who braved jellyfish stings in her long-distance swims, zombie ants, the sixth mass extinction and the cruelty of her classmates who kill a frog by throwing it against a tree. As Suzy passionately presents her findings she is disappointed that the main outcome is a new nickname ‘medusa’ and it becomes another tool for the class bullies.
This book is dedicated “For curious kids everywhere” and it is an intelligent, thought provoking and original read.
Here is an excerpt explaining how over-fishing, global warming and pollution are increasing the jellyfish population and the effect this will have on the planet:
There are more jellyfish than ever. At least, that’s what some scientists say.
People are the problem. We take other fish from the ocean – too many fish. We send them to factories and press them into breaded sticks and patties. We truck them to Red Lobster and Long John Silver’s. We fill supermarket cases with their flesh, all slick and gleaming on heaps of ice.
When we do these things, jellyfish blooms grow bigger. Jellies have less competition for their foods now. They grow in number, move in massive groups, devouring everything.
The seas are warming, which is terrible for almost everyone. They are also filling with chemicals. Huge sections of the seas today don’t have enough oxygen. But jellyfish love a warm ocean, the chemicals don’t hurt jellyfish one bit, and they carry all the oxygen they need right inside their watery selves.
There are now so many jellyfish that power plants around the world have been shut down when hundreds of thousands of the creatures have clogged their seawater cooling systems. Jellyfish populations are getting so huge, they are stealing the food supply from animals you’d never expect-even penguins in Antartica. One scientist believes they might someday starve whales to extinction.
Nobody knows this. Nobody thinks about it or talks about it. I mean, this is some of the biggest news around, and when was the last time you even saw a jellyfish on television?
But they’re out there, I’m telling you.
They are out there right this second. They are moving silently, endlessly, all of them, through the darkness of the sea.