Home  |   Fishes   |   Invertebrates   |  Books   |   CDs   |   Links   |   Contact

This review appeared in the Maui Weekly for June 1, 2006.

Reef Fish Hawai‘i
Rainbow Reefs - Images of Hawaii's Underwater Paradise
by John P. Hoover

Joseph W. Bean

If you snorkel or dive or visit a Pacific aquarium, you know John Hoover’s “big books.” These are two little ones.

Everyone who looks at Hawai‘i fishes as anything more than flashes in the sea has copies of John P. Hoover’s encyclopedic books Hawai‘i’s Fishes and Hawai‘i’s Sea Creatures. Snorkelers and divers must sometimes wish they could take those books underwater. I mean, holding up a picture would help you sort out the milkfish from the sharpnose mullets, right? Then you’d know what behavior to watch for and—OK, almost anything more I say is going to sound nerdy, but I’m not alone. If you know what I’m talking about, you know you want Hoover’s new Reef Fish Hawai‘i: Waterproof Pocket Guide.

Not only do you get a picture—almost two inches wide—of each fish, you also get the common name, the Latin name, a basic description including size range, and a note about whether the animal is endemic to Hawai‘i. With six of those entries on each 4.75 by 6-inch page, you get the facts on 154 species in a soft, foldable, waterproof booklet that you can carry in the waistband of a bathing suit.

It doesn’t get any better than that, but since you can’t always be in the water, sometimes it’s nice just to enjoy beautiful pictures of perfect specimens of local fishes.

That’s why we all need Hoover’s other new book, Rainbow Reefs: Images from Hawai‘i’s Underwater Paradise.

This book comprises 39 of the best reef fish pictures you can get in an inexpensive collection anywhere. Of course, Hoover is Hoover, so you’ll learn as you enjoy. You don’t just see a Moorish idol, you see a rare idol with a double streamer. Hoover doesn’t just let us look closely at the invasive snowflake coral, he shows that lacy white coral crowding an orange cup coral in a cave. When we see the butterflyfish, we learn (or are reminded) that “Ornate Butterflyfish almost always swim in pairs.”

In places, two pages are taken up by a single picture spread out to about 15 inches wide, and you’ll ooh and ahh.

The two-page spread of the cornetfish is especially effective. We’re used to pictures of just part of a cornetfish or of the cornetfish reduced to a thin line with no fishlike presence. The whole snaky reality of the animal is clear here.

Hermit crabs fighting over a shell—how cool is that?

The polka-dot sea slug and the polka-dotted harlequin shrimp seem more meaningful paired up on facing pages.

Ah, there is one “error” in the text. Hoover couldn’t have known that the famous humuhumunukunukuapua‘a would regain its crown as Hawai‘i’s offcial state fish, of course, so he calls it “unoffcial.” Trust me on this: That’s as close to wrong as Hoover ever gets.

I finished my fourth or fifth read-through of Rainbow Reefs a few hours ago, and I’m still smiling every time I think of it.

5 out of 5 Shakas

Reef Fish Hawai‘i and Rainbow Reefs
by John P. Hoover
Mutual Publishing, Honolulu, 2006
waterproof/hardcover 26/48 pages
ISBN 1-56647-766-2 and 1-56647-761-1
Copyright © 2006 The Maui Weekly.

Home  |   Fishes   |   Invertebrates   |  Books   |   CDs   |   Links   |   Contact