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Eloquence of the Sardine: Extraordinary Encounters Beneath the Sea

Gabbi Cisneros

August 09, 2021

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Eloquence of the Sardine is meant to intrigue, to entertain, and to inspire any sort of interest in the ocean and its creatures. It counters the out of sight, out of mind indifference we usually treat them with by opening our eyes to their world. 

EloquenceOfTheSardine.jpgEloquence of the Sardine: Extraordinary Encounters Beneath the Sea by Bill François, St. Martin’s Press 

In Eloquence of the Sardine, following author Bill François's lead, we plunge into both fiction and nonfiction stories of the ocean, sinking into the reverie that is the undersea world. It is a collection of fifteen personal essays about François's various ocean-centric discoveries. What makes his perspective unique is that, professionally, he doesn't study the marine creatures themselves; Rather, he is a physicist. It's nice to see ways one can connect with a subject beyond their career and also despite initial fear of it. 

For François–who was afraid of the fish and deeper waters beyond the tide pools he explored as a child–the fascination overtook the fear when he encountered a shiny sardine on a beach, a rare find. And from there François dives into the alternative ways of communication underwater, the intricacies of fish's skin and friendships, the story of the world's largest pearl, the horrors of trawling, and more. He introduces us to creatures as if they were close friends: the lobster, noble pen shell, codfish, anchovies, European Eels, Bluefin Tuna... demonstrating how even those of us who have grown up near lakes, rivers, oceans, and seas may not know half of the lives the waters contain, or our relationship to and effect on them. 

A survey of 910 French children between the ages of eight and twelve shows that 20 percent have no idea that there's the slightest connection between the animals they see on TV, which are called 'fish,' and the food that appears regularly on their plates, which is called 'fish sticks.’ 

You'll find plenty of moments of humor and playfulness that add to the infectious joy of his curiosity. Eloquence of the Sardine is meant to intrigue, to entertain, and to inspire any sort of interest in the ocean and its creatures. It counters the out of sight, out of mind indifference we usually treat them with by opening our eyes to their world. This book is full of wonderful surprises, as is everything that author Bill François shares with the world on Instagram (a lot of great pictures of fish!) and in interviews and presentations (here's one in French but you could add automatic subtitles!). His multi-disciplinary interests and proficiencies are inspiring, and I'm looking forward to reading more from him in the future. 

About The Author

Gabriella Cisneros is usually ‘Gabbi.’ She is a recent graduate of UW-Milwaukee, with degrees in Film and Spanish, and she’s a new addition to Porchlight Books. It’s kind of a dream job for someone who has a 55 page, indexed document of interesting words she’s found in books. Gabbi regularly makes time for taking photos, traveling, attending concerts, trying new restaurants, listening to the podcast "Ologies," blogging, filmmaking, fitness, and—of course—reading.

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