The information below is about the original version of Zobi and the Zoox (2014), created prior to our publishing collaboration with CSIRO Publishing.


Zobi and the Zoox is a beautifully illustrated science-adventure story, set on the Great Barrier Reef. Featuring a cast of microbes, molecules and mucus – this 44-page children’s book highlights the microscopic members of the symbiotic society within coral.

Healthy coral is a symbiotic relationship between the Cnidarian (animal) polyp host; microscopic, photosynthetic zooxanthellae dinoflagellates (called Symbiodinium) and a large community of Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi, Protists and Archaea. Set on the Great Barrier Reef, when their coral polyp home is under threat from a warming ocean, our hero Zobi (a rhizobia bacterium) works together with a family of slow-but-steady Zoox (zooxanthellae) to try to save the day.

Zobi and the Zoox was created by Melbourne-based writer Ailsa Wild and artist Aviva Reed in collaboration with Dr Gregory Crocetti and Briony Barr from Scale Free Network. Together, this interdisciplinary team travelled to Townsville to undertake research for the story and meet  Dr. Madeleine van Oppen – a researcher based at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. We also visited the Great Barrier Reef, accompanied by Reef Teach. Zobi and the Zoox was also made with support and advice from our long term friend and collaborator – microbial ecologist Professor Linda Blackall.
To date, Zobi and the Zoox has won a Puggle award (the new children’s choice award) in the Picture Fiction category of the Environmental Award for Children’s Literature (EACL) and was shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award (in the 8-10 year old category).

About the Small Friends storybook project

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.



The creation of this book was supported by a $20,000 grant from the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria.


Thank you to everyone who supported the printing of this book by pre-ordering a copy via crowdfunding platform POZIBLE.