Fish tales land boy an aquarium tour CARROLL COUNTY EDUCATION

December 07, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Justin J. Keller's taste in books has changed slightly since his recent visit to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

The 4-year-old Sykesville boy is interested in fish tales now and is "reading" brochures from the aquarium, pointing to pictures of all the creatures he saw.

"I saw him and him," he said, pointing to fish photos. "But I couldn't find this hammerhead shark when we were there. He was on the wall but not in the water."

Justin won the trip by reading about other creatures: dinosaurs.

Every time the Keller family enters Eldersburg Library, Justin races to the dinosaur aisle. The child knows many stories by heart and spouts the multisyllabic names of extinct creatures as if they were friends of the family.

He has heard many of the tales so often he can read some by himself, said his mother, Sarah Keller.

Justin was one of the 4,100 Carroll County children to participate in the summer reading program sponsored by the Carroll County Public Libraries.

"He and I read for 10 days consecutively," said Mrs. Keller. "All about dinosaurs."

Those hours at the books earned Justin a chance at several prizes. He won his "most favorite": a 90-minute Behind the Scenes tour for six people.

"No dinosaurs, but a rain forest and lots of neat fish," he said.

The neatest were the sharks, he said, without a minute's hesitation. The insider's tour entitled Justin to a close-up look from the catwalk over the shark tank.

"They weren't eating anything, just swimming," he said. "One waved at us," he said.

"We were so close to the sharks; we could have knelt down and touched them," said Mrs. Keller.

The performing dolphins won the best of show, according to the budding ichthyologist.

"They jumped up in the air and then back into the water," said Justin. "A man jumped into the water, too, and took a ride on a dolphin."

With their "own personal guide," the family moved through operational areas that are closed to the public.

"We saw all these flashes from people taking pictures on the other side," said Justin's 8-year-old sister, Nicole. They also got a look at the aquarium's laboratories and equipment. The inhabitants' cuisine made the children pinch their noses, said Nicole.

"Their food really smells," she said, grimacing at the memory of the fishes' kitchen.

The children held starfish and snails and got to pet a horseshoe crab.

"We saw one fish with a nose as long as Nicole's leg," said Justin, stretching his hands wide apart to demonstrate. "And one huge turtle, who was probably a grown-up."

He said he will check out one fish story and one dinosaur book on the next library trip. His mother expects piscatorial vocabulary to follow. The family also has acquired an aquarium and some goldfish.

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