Arts and Entertainment

The ABCs of Vashon’s sea life

“Vashon ABCs: An Exploration of Shore Life” is full of color photos the author has captured of Vashon sea life, such as these ochre seastars. - Barbara Gustafson Photo
“Vashon ABCs: An Exploration of Shore Life” is full of color photos the author has captured of Vashon sea life, such as these ochre seastars.
— image credit: Barbara Gustafson Photo

Island educator Barbara Gustafson will read from her recently published book, “Vashon ABCs: An Exploration of Shore Life,” this week.

The book, written in an ABC format, is an introductory guide to the plants and animals found on Vashon’s shores. Though the book is written in a format typically used for children, a broad range of people can enjoy the book and learn from it in addition to children, Gustafson said, including those new to the island who want to learn more about their environment and those who have lived on the island a long time and want to expand their knowledge.

“It became more than I thought it was going to be,” she said.

The book begins with the rules of beach behavior and continues with an exploration in words and pictures of an array of sea life, from aggregate anemones through zostera, the scientific name for eelgrass. Readers learn that anemones live in colonies because each anemone can divide into two identical individuals and that eelgrass flowers annually and produces seeds. With each letter, Gustafson gives a multitude of facts, including where to find slimy marine worms, that seastars can grow to be 36 inches wide and have 15,000 tube feet and just how a moonsnail, so innocent looking on the beach, traps and devours its prey.

Though not intended to be a comprehensive field guide, Gustafson said she took care to include an example from every type of marine life found on Vashon beaches.

“I covered most everything people will see,” she said.

The book, less than 30 pages long, contains about 75 colorful photos, all of which Gustafson took on Vashon, mostly at Point Robinson, KVI beach and the north end, which Gustafson said has “a huge spectrum of habitat.”

This book, which she self-published early this month, is Gustafson’s first and is a project she started to think about five years ago, she said, in part because of her own interests and her treasure trove of photographs. Additionally, Gustafson is a part-time bookseller at the Vashon Bookshop, and she said she has fielded many requests over the years for a book about Vashon for children, and there have been few to choose from. Those that are specific to Vashon, such as Bianca Perla’s “Family Walks on Vashon” and her newly issued laminated “Vashon-Maury Island Field Guide,” have been very popular, leading Gustafson to believe there will be an island audience receptive to learning more about the beach creatures around us as well.

Barbara Gustafson will read from her book at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Vashon Bookshop.

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