batty for sam

BookishJenLuc Occasional co-blogger Allyson is being far too modest about some very big news: she's the proud author of a new, scienc-y children's book from Conservatory Press, The Amazing Adventures of Sam the Bat. It relates the inspiring tail of a young free-tail bat who gets separated from his home colony and must find his way home — a journey that takes him from South American rain forests, to a five-star hotel in London, and even to Notre Dame in Paris. (This is actually Allyson's second book, but her first stab at fiction. Her first was a collection of essays ruminating on the online culture of fandom with her trademark caustic wit: Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby?)

I've watched Allyson sweat over this book for over a year: researching bat science and trying to convey those details accurately, while still telling a gripping story that will fire kids' imaginations. It's not an easy feat. Sure, I'm biased, but I think she's succeeded with flying colors. And Those Who Blurbed agree with me:

"Sam the Bat is a delightful book that manages at once to teach children about a fascinating and greatly misunderstood species, while holding them under the spell of a touching — and often very funny — story with an appealing hero. I'm sorry I didn't get to read it to my own children." — Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn and Mirror Kingdoms 41QC-AhV0FL._SL500_AA300_

"Sam's story is a great introduction to the lives of bats around the world, and is a thrilling read. It's a great challenge to imagine life through the eyes of a bat (I've tried), and Allyson Beatrice does so beautifully. Through Sam, Beatrice explores the kindness of strangers, the importance of friends, and the value of family. I would recommend this book to any young person curious about the world and the animals living in it." — Daniel K. Riskin, assistant professor of biology at the City University of New York, and from Animal Planet's Monsters Inside Me and Discovery Channel's Curiosity

So, in honor of this momentous occasion, I'd like to offer a few batty links for your reading pleasure. Allyson's not the only Batgirl at the cocktail party, in fact –I've blogged about the acoustics of echolocation, and how that basic science can feed into helping develop prosthetic devices for restoring some semblance of sight to the blind. (I also follow @God_Damn_Batman on Twitter, just for laughs.) Know who else loves bats? Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science. Here's a sampling:

Ninja Bat Whispers To Sneak Up on Moths. "Holger Goerlitz from the University of Bristol has found that the barbastelle bat is a stealth killer that specialises in eating moths with ears. Its echolocation calls are 10 to 100 times quieter than those of other moth-hunting bats and these whispers allow it to sneak up on its prey."

Bats, Compasses, Tongues, and Memories. "If you were a biologist looking for astounding innovations in nature, you could do much worse than to study bats. They are like showcases of nature’s ingenuity, possessing a massive variety of incredible adaptations that allow them to exploit the skies of the night."

Then there's today's hot bat-related news in the blogosphere: How Bats Find Water and Why Metal Confuses Them. "Waves of sound that hit the surface of still water would generally bounce away, except for those aimed straight downwards. Stefan Greif and Björn Siemers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology have found that bats are instinctively tuned to find water using this unique feature." (I love the Max Planck Institute for devoting an entire institute to the study of bats.)

And who could forget this classic news story (with exciting NSFW bat porn video footage!) about certain batty practices that would appall Chrisine O'Donnell: Holy Fellatio, Batman! Fruit Bats Use Oral Sex To Prolong Actual Sex (no need for an excerpt, it's self-explanatory). We're sure Allyson's innocent little bat friend, Sam, would never, ever, engage in such behavior. *cough* He's a free-tail bat, not one of those pervy fruit bats!

Ed has also written about how caribbean fruitbats are kind of a mash-up of three different bat species; how wind turbines pose a threat to bats;, and their evolutionary common ground with whales when it comes to echolocation. Really, if you Google "science of bats," you can't help but come across something written by Ed on the topic. (Let's start a rumor! Ed Yong: Bat Fetishist.)

But he's not the only one. Here's a lovely rumination on the bat as "Life In Motion" from The Loom's Carl Zimmer. The Featured Creature recently posted OMG-Adorbz! pix of fluffy Honduran baby white bats. Over at PLOS Blogs, Brandon Keim warns about what would happen in a world without bats. And even the San Francisco Chronicle got into the game with a recent article, "Dispelling Flights of Fancy About Bats." So celebrate the release of The Amazing Adventures of Sam The Bat by boning up on a litlte bat science! (And feel free to order Allyson's book when you're done!)

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