The Small Friends storybook project tells stories of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses) and the intimate relationships they form with larger forms of life. Each story combines engaging written narrative and beautiful illustrations inspired by rich scientific concepts. The books promote the idea that cooperation is a dominant paradigm of nature, not just competition. They portray microbes in a positive light, countering misguided hysteria around germs and hygiene.
The theme of symbiosis is reflected in the creative team behind the storybook, comprised of a writer, illustrator and microbial ecologist who will work with active scientists, all coordinated by Scale Free Network. The combined work of these collaborators explains these natural phenomena in a way that no single person could do on their own.
In 2019, Scale Free Network developed a partner with CSIRO Publishing to publish The Small Friends series.
'This book is about a symobiotic relationship. It tells the story of a Bobtail squid and the bacteria that help it glow in the moonlight.
First we meet Ali, an intrepid Vibrio fischerie bacterium determined to reach safety. Then we meet Sepio, a baby Bobtail squid who is still unable to glow. His dark shape is too obvious in the moonlit water and all kinds of predators lurk nearby. Can Ali and Sepio help each other? What kind of dangers do they face? What can we learn from their adventure?' (Source: Back cover)Melbourne : Scale Free Network , 2013
With her home under threat from a warming ocean, Zobi, a brave rhizobia bacterium, teams up with a family of slow but steady Zoox (zooxanthellae). The coral becomes gravely ill and bacteria around them begin to starve. Can Zobi and the Zoox work together to save the day?
This book is about a symbiotic relationship. It tells the story of the microscopic friends living in a tiny coral polyp. (Source: Back cover)Melbourne : Scale Free Network , 2014
'The tale of a tiny worm, the bacteria that live inside her, and a tree being munched on by a grub.
'This is a story about tiny creatures that live in the darkness of the soil.
'When a tree cries out in pain, some unexpected heroes come to the rescue. Nema and her gang of young nematodes (tiny worms) embark on a dangerous journey underground. The Xenos, a group of wise but deadly bacteria, hitch a ride. The story of how they help the tree is full of action, life-or-death challenges and microscopic warfare. It is a story of co-operation and ancient partnership, about events happening all over the Earth, in the hidden worlds beneath our feet.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.Clayton : CSIRO Publishing Scale Free Network , 2019
'This is a story about trees and fungi connected through a 'wood wide web' - told by one tiny fungal spore.
'A little fungus meets a baby cacao tree and they learn to feed each other. They cooperate with a forest of plants and a metropolis of microbes in the soil. But when drought strikes can they work together to survive?
'The fourth book in the Small Friends Books series, this science-adventure story explores the Earth-shaping partnerships between plants, fungi and bacteria.' (Publication summary)