Pagoo by Holling Clancy Holling was one of the best science books I ever read as a kid. As soon as we arrived at our vacation spot I would race to the library, take this book home, and lose myself in the microscopic and not-so microscopic adventures of Pagoo the hermit crab.
To this day, whenever I think of plankton or tide pools, these are the images that come to mind. When I finally got to graduate school in marine biology, I discovered that Holling Clancy Holling was absolutely accurate. Just compare his painting of Pagoo the zoea with a modern photo from Wikipedia:
The artist had obviously looked through a microscope, and captured the wonder of that invisible world.
Pagoo isn’t a long book, nor does it have to be. Almost half of its pages are full-page color plates of the Pacific tide pool world, and the margins of the other pages are filled with sketches of everything from how mussels form their byssus threads to how a larval crab sheds its shell. Not to mention everybody’s favorite villain…
Nowadays I’m sure kids get interested in marine biology through the internet. But there’s still a lot to be said for a book you can take out in the back yard and read under a tree. For my money, this is that book.
Holling Clancy Holling was one of the great artist-naturalists of the 1920-40s who roamed the US recording what the saw and experienced. Stories of his travels across America and how it was reflected in his art and books can be found at the Holling Clancy Holling blog.