Small Friends Books

Literature & Publishing

The Secret Life of Soil

Small Friends Books are science-adventure stories where bacteria get to be the heroes. We are seeking funding to develop two new stories that explore and visualise soil, the ‘skin of the Earth’.

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Small Friends Books combine cutting-edge scientific research, rich narrative and beautiful illustrations to tell stories that describe symbiotic partnerships between microbes and larger life forms. Each book re-imagines the world from a microbial point of view, to engage and educate children and adults alike.

We are seeking funding for a creative development period of 8 months to describe the hidden living world beneath our feet – soil:
1. Xeno’s Feast will be a delightfully gothic tale that explores the unique partnerships between plants, nematodes (roundworms) and Xenos (Xenorhabdus bacteria).
2. The Forest in the Tree will describe the interconnected relationships between plants, mycorrhizae fungi and bacteria, inspired by the ‘Wood Wide Web’ – the underground, fungal ‘internet’.

Microbes make up 99% of life on Earth, playing a vital role in the health of all living entities and ecosystems – and yet no stories or education resources exist to help explain this. Small Friends Books tell positive stories about our smallest and oft misunderstood friends.

Socio-economic modeling forecasts a growing need for STEM education, as Australian children slip further down international league tables in Mathematics and Science. The current crisis of science teaching in Australia requires new modes of engagement.

Small Friends Books takes the approach of teaching science through storytelling – creating new tools to engage and educate children and their teachers, parents and grandparents about the critical roles of microbes in the world around us.

Our first two picture books (The Squid, the Vibrio & the Moon and Zobi and the Zoox) have sold over 5,000 copies, received endorsements from environmentalist and TV legend David Suzuki and ABC Science Show guru Robyn Williams. Small Friends Books has also been featured in mainstream print and radio, received significant recognition from the literary world through short-listings and awards, and have been invited to run workshops at a range of schools, universities and conferences in Australia and beyond.

We recently secured the endorsement and financial support from the Australian Society of Microbiology. However, the creative team of Ailsa Wild (writer), Aviva Reed (illustrator), Briony Barr (Art Director) and Dr. Gregory Crocetti (Science Director) require further funding to drive the drafting, storyboarding, illustration, design and layout of these next two picture books.

To publish these stories and take the Small Friends Books series to a wider audience, we plan to work with established publishers and build on our current distribution networks. Thus, after the creative development of both soil stories, we will produce a small print run for limited sale, and to pitch the entire series to publishers in Australia and internationally.

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Small Friends Books is a growing success story within Australian independent publishing scene, making an original and distinct contribution to the genre of eco-literature.

Each award-winning story in the Small Friends Books series has been created through collaboration between the core creative development team, working closely with designers, educators and students.

Our deeply interdisciplinary methodology ensures high aesthetic values, production values and strong scientific integrity – which crucially relies on the in-kind support of a range of scientific experts (e.g. microbiologists, virologists, mycologists, plant physiologists), who provide us with critical advice, research material, images and feedback.

The Small Friends Books creative team is comprised of:

Briony Barr 
(Art Director & Publisher)

Bachelor of Arts (English), Bachelor of Fine Arts, Masters of Fine Arts

Briony is a conceptual artist, designer and interdisciplinary thinker, who is fascinated in the relationships between large and small.

Dr. Gregory Crocetti (Science Director, Creator & Publisher)
Bachelor of Science (Honours),
PhD (Microbiology), Diploma of Education
Gregory combines his microbial ecology experience with science education skills in an attempt to teach the world that microbes are marvellous.

Aviva Reed 

Bachelor of Science, Masters of Environment (Education)

Aviva is a multi-disciplinary visual ecologist who creates immersive experiences to explore complex science.

Ailsa Wild

Bachelor of Arts, Masters of Creative Media (Creative Writing)

Ailsa creates stories for theatre and paper pages. She loves collaborating with acrobats, scientists and children and her favourite question is But why?

Small Friends Books is coordinated by Melbourne-based Art-Science collective, Scale Free Network (, founded by Briony Barr and Gregory Crocetti.


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