Mother of Sharks: Book Review

Mother of Sharks by Melissa Cristina Márquez is a picture book (for ages 5-8, but appropriate for all ages!) that takes readers on a fantastical journey through the ocean. A little talking hermit crab named Jaiba is the main character’s (and our) tour guide. Major ocean conservation issues are briefly mentioned. This book also showcases the diversity of sharks.

The ocean conservation issues touched upon include coral bleaching, ghost nets and marine animals as bycatch in fishing nets. Sharks introduced include nurse sharks, sixgill sharks, and mako sharks.

The author Melissa is a shark scientist which is cool in itself. But she is also a science communicator who teaches that sharks are not scary, necessary and need to be conserved.

Where Mother of Sharks truly shines is that the author herself is a Latina scientist in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). She advocates to the main character, a little girl, that she too can become a shark scientist (or any scientist for that matter). The sciences now have women in most/all fields, which historically hasn’t been true. But persons of color, and especially women persons of color, are growing in numbers in STEM.

I loved the illustrator’s, Devin Elle Kurtz, drawings. I especially liked the variety of cartoon-like sharks depicted on the front and end pages. The illustrations really add to the text. They also take you seamlessly to different parts of the ocean with realistic animal illustrations.

Melissa is from La Playita del Condado in Puerto Rico. There are Spanish phrases throughout the text. As a student of Spanish I knew some words and could figure out the rest in context. For those of you who don’t know Spanish, there are translations in the back matter.

A very encouraging letter to children is from the author at the end of Mother of Sharks. There are web resources, Spanish translations, and a brief list of sharks mentioned.

All in all, I highly recommend checking this book for a young girl in your life out either from the library (request it if you don’t see it on the shelf) or from your local bookstore through Bookshop.org I was excited to see Mother of Sharks available at my local Target!

Book Review: The Wind Riders #1-Rescue on Turtle Beach

Wind Riders #1 by Jen Marlin, illustrated by Izzy Burton

The Wind Riders #1: Rescue on Turtle Beach by Jen Marlin and illustrated by Izzy Burton

This is a chapter book for ages 6-10 years old. The series’ premise is that Max and Sofia come across a magical boat that takes them places where they can help animals.

In this book, Max and Sofia end up in Hawaii. They help newly hatched baby sea turtles make their way to the ocean. They do this during the day. After helping one hatchling make it to the ocean, Max, Sofia and their new friend Laila figure out the best way to help the babies is to turn on the lighthouse light. 

That’s because baby sea turtles usually hatch at night to avoid predators. They use the moonlight shining off the ocean to figure out which way to go. But the hotel on the beach is having a party that will confuse the baby turtles.  Will Max, Sophia and Laila make it on time to help the hatchlings? Read Wind Riders #1 to find out!

I really liked the premise of this chapter book series. I liked having a magical boat to take them on adventures around the world. No time passed back home, just like the Magic Treehouse series. But this book has an animal and ocean theme. The characters are likable and believable. The story is well-paced and includes accurate scientific facts in the text and backwater.

Fans of the Magic Treehouse, Magic Schoolbus, and Zoey & Sassafras books will like this science adventure series, currently at 4 books. They’ll be eager to read Wind Riders #2: Search for the Scarlet Macaws, Wind Riders #3: Shipwreck in Seal Bay and Wind Riders #4: Whale Song of Puffin Cliff. I encourage you to buy through your favorite independent bookstore at bookshop.org and here is a list of all the books I’ve reviewed: https://bookshop.org/lists/ocean-of-hope-blog-books-reviewed/            

Turtles of the Midnight Moon: Book Review

“Turtles of the Midnight Moon” by Maria José Fitzgerald is an enchanting middle grade eco-mystery about two 12-year-old girls who form a friendship despite being from different countries and cultures. Sea turtle lovers will rejoice to see their beloved animals take center stage. Those who know nothing about sea turtles will come away with a boatload of information about the largest of the 7 species of sea turtles, the leatherback sea turtle.

Abby, from the U.S., and her doctor father go visit his homeland in Honduras. Abby is still grieving after her best friend moved away, and she doesn’t fit in at school. But she loves taking pictures and that keeps her involved in school.

Her counterpart in Honduras, Barana, has a moon-shaped scar that perfectly matches the scar on the shell of Luna, a leatherback sea turtle. She shares a special bond with this turtle, and her scar hurts when Luna is nearby (i.e. laying eggs on the beach near where she lives).

Barana loves the sea turtles and helps an adult in charge of them, Maria, patrol the nesting beach and guard nests. Both girls are wary of each other at first-Barana just wants to protect the sea turtles and get out of her chores, and Abby want to explore on her own with her camera. But they bond over their shared creativity-Barana draws and writes poetry while Abby is a photographer.

Abby and Barana also bond over concern for the sea turtles. One of Luna’s nests survives a storm, but her other nests are no match for poachers. The girls need solve the mystery of who the poachers are and bring them to justice if they’re going to save any of Luna’s eggs.

“Turtles of the Midnight Moon” is written from a dual point-of-view. It is engaging and kept my interest. I’m a marine biologist and I found it to be scientifically accurate. I’m glad I’m studying Spanish but there were phrases here and there that weren’t translated fully in the context of the story. The gist of the Spanish is there, but footnotes or a glossary would be nice. But there’s always google translate (though that takes away from the flow of the story).

Otherwise, it’s well-paced with the right amount of mystery and magic to keep you reading. Besides being an eco-mystery, it’s also a book about friendship and family as well as the complications that those relationships bring.

Budding conservationists will love this book, and those who aren’t (yet!) will come away with an appreciation of our ancient sea turtles.

For more on sea turtles, see https://oceanofhope.net/10-fabulous-facts-about-sea-turtles/

Book Review: Circus at the End of the Sea by Lori R. Snyder

Circus at the End of the Sea by Lori R. Snyder
Circus at the End of the Sea by Lori R. Snyder

“The Circus at the End of the Sea” by Lori R. Snyder is a heartwarming, delightful and joy-of-a-book to read. It’s a middle grade fantasy book (ages 8-12 years old) about magic on Venice Beach, California.

Although I read MG books extensively because I write in that genre, I ordinarily wouldn’t pick up a fantasy book about magic. But the main character, Maddy, gains a cephalopod sidekick in the blue octopus with yellow spots named Ophelia. I instantly fell in love with this charming, protective and lovable sidekick who sits on Maddy’s shoulder.

Ophelia is fashioned after the real-life mimic octopus, who “mimics” real animals to escape predators. It can become sea snake, lionfish, or flatfish to name a few. (Search “mimic octopus on YouTube for some fascinating videos!) Ophelia is an octopus living in a magical world, so she can squirt magical ink and turn into words!

The protagonist, Maddy, has seen magic in the ordinary world her entire life. As an orphan shuttled around different group homes, she has learned to keep this ability secret. Until one day she is drawn to the end of a pier in Venice Beach during the beginning of a storm, and she discovers Il Circo delle Strade, the Circus at the End of the Sea.

There she discovers a magical circus which boasts a number of unique characters including a muse and guide named Vanessa that gives her magical leg warmers. She embraces her magical abilities and begins to find out the mystery of the silver bracelet she can’t remove and was given to her by the parents who abandoned her as a newborn. She even learns why she has a heart condition she needs medication for.

Besides Ophelia, her best cephalopod friend, she meets her best human friend Skeeter, who is also a skateboarder. He wants to become a part of the circus but is too young. He too is an orphan. Skeeter and Maddy bond over that and being able to see the magic all around them.

I wasn’t expecting spiritual philosophy in a fantasy children’s book, but there’s a good balance of seeing magic in the ordinary, to finding out your true nature and discovering real friendships.

There is never a dull moment in Circus at the End of the Sea, whether it’s quiet contemplative moments, or a race on a roller coaster through the clouds. There is also the Bridge of Sighs that Maddy must cross and face her fears in order to reach the Heart at the End of the World. Most of all, this book is about about possibilities, and that our destinies are what we make of them.


I won’t give anything else away, but if you are intrigued, check out your local library or independent bookseller.
This is the Amazon link Circus at the End of the Sea. It comes out October 19, 2021.

The end notes are about the real Venice Beach, California, which is a character all onto itself in this book. I haven’t been there before but feel I have thanks to this book!

I know the author of this book, Lori R. Snyder, who is also a marine biologist and writer. She is the founder of the Writer’s Happiness Movement, which does free online writer’s retreats and has free yoga over zoom among many other wonderful things. I do her weekly 5 minute Writer’s Happiness Exercises as often as I can.

Please visit Lori’s website at Writer’s Happiness Movement or on Instagram at @writershappiness or Twitter at @writersHM for more information about the Writer’s Happiness Movement!

Book Review: Wild Survival-Crocodile Rescue! By Melissa Cristina Márquez

Crocodile Rescue! book by Melissa Cristina Márquez
Book Review: Wild Survival-Crocodile Rescue! by Melissa Cristina Márquez

Wild Survival: Crocodile Rescue! By Melissa Cristina Márquez is a charming and entertaining middle grade (ages 8-12 years old, 3-7 grade) eco-adventure novel. The protagonist is 12-year-old Adrianna Villalobos, a spunky and intrepid explorer who’s quite clever. Her Afro-Latinx family includes her mother, father and adopted older brother Feye.

The Villalobos family owns a wildlife sanctuary and zoo. They are the new stars of a wildlife rescue TV show Wild Survival! The family is tasked with finding and rehabilitating an injured crocodile in Cuba. The show producer, Mr. Savage is also on the lookout for a fabled mega-croc to sensationalize on the TV show.

Adrianna has to prove to her parents that she’s not too young—or irresponsible—to be on camera. Soon after arriving in Cuba, Adrianna puts her brother’s life in danger while he is tagging a croc. She then has to regain her parents’ trust after being put back behind-the-scenes.

Her impulsiveness gets her into trouble, but she is clever and sometimes wise beyond her years to get herself out of any sticky situations she finds herself in. Readers will identify with her universal insecurities and root for her growing confidence. They might agree with Adrianna that her parents are being overprotective, but understand that it’s just for her own safety.

The relationship between Adrianna and her older brother is very realistic and they have their ups and downs throughout the book. One of the highlights of the book is when they go out on their own on a boat adventure. You’ll find yourself rooting from them to save something important, despite the fact they don’t have their parent’s approval. The parents are stern but understanding when they arrive back at the dock.

The antagonists are the poachers which make a brief appearance in the book, and in a way the show producer, Mr. Savage. He is always going for the sensational shot. This doesn’t sit well with Adrianna’s parents, who are rightly protective of their children as well as their own safety.

This middle grade novel has just the right amount of detail that you feel like you’re in Cuba for the first time with Adrianna and her family. The factual pages scattered throughout the book about animals, plants and habitats are short but sweet, and the back matter very informative. I like how there’s a glossary of Spanish terms spoken in the book in the order that they appear. I learned a lot of new Spanish words and phrases.

I like how Melissa Cristina Márquez’s own adventure with a crocodile made its way into the book, as it adds an air of realism to the story. I felt my heart pound when Adrianna had her fateful nighttime encounter with a croc.

There’s never a dull moment in Crocodile Rescue! Kids who like animals and nature will love the book, and those who think they don’t will be drawn into the Villalobos family’s thrilling adventures in Cuba.

The next book in the series, Wild Survival: Swimming with Sharks comes out July 6, 2021 and I can’t wait to read and review it!

Also see my interview with the author, Melissa Cristina Márquez

More facts on crocodiles from Fact Animal
And more on sharks:
10 Interesting Great White Shark Facts

Ocean Documentary Review: “Diving Deep: the Life and Times of Mike deGruy”

diving deep poster, diving deep documentary, diving deep review
Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike deGruy

I just watched “Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike deGruy,” a documentary about an ocean filmmaker, scuba diver, deep-sea explorer and entertaining storyteller. I had heard of Mike through the many ocean documentaries I’ve watched over my lifetime, and his infectious enthusiasm for the ocean is unforgettable. He may be recognizable to Shark Week enthusiasts as a host.

The documentary is thourough, starting with Mike growing up exploring the bayous of Mobile, Alabama with his 3 brothers. They were all springboard divers, and Mike’s father’s movies of them diving was one of the many ways Mike was introduced to filmmaking.

He was daring and brave to dive in some of the places he did, like Antarctica and during a white tip reef shark feeding frenzy despite being attacked on the arm by a shark earlier in his life. Mike even dove into the deep sea in deep submersible subs and suits. He was a true explorer who championed for all that is in the ocean, new and old.


Mike was upset that more people didn’t share his enthusiasm for all things ocean, and that corporations would choose profits over exploring. For example BP and the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was in his childhood backyard so to speak, and he was very angry about the oil spill from when it happened to years later when we still don’t know the effects of the chemical dispersants used due to lack of scientific funding.


Mike deGruy died in a helicopter crash (February 4, 2012) while going to film James Cameron’s world record setting dive down to the Marianas Trench. An amazing life was cut short but his 30 years of film documentaries lives on.


I saw “Diving Deep: the Life and Time of Mike deGruy” through the International Ocean Film Fest, running through August 9, 2020. It’s available to watch by donation.

Here’s one of his free TED talks, Hooked by an Octopus:

Here’s the documentary’s website Diving Deep”

Book Review: Escape Galápagos by Ellen Prager

Escape Galapagos book cover
Escape Galapagos by Ellen Prager

Escape Galápagos by Ellen Prager is a middle grade adventure novel. It’ll appeal to most nature and animal lovers, but because the protagonist is fearful of wild animals and being in nature, it also has a wider appeal.

It’s like taking a virtual trip to the Galápagos Islands, which are located west of Ecuador in South America. These are the islands made famous by the naturalist Charles Darwin, who came up with the theory of evolution.

The protagonist, Ezzy, is afraid of wildlife and dislikes being in nature. Her dad (never named) and her younger brother, Luke, are the total opposite. Ezzy and Luke’s mother (an adventurous woman) passed away and their family is on a quest to complete her “wonder list,” a bucket list of places she always wanted to travel to. The Galápagos Islands were first on that list.

Ezzy’s fears of wild animal poop, and of being attacked by wildlife are addressed with humor realistically. A major portion of the book is a hike through one of the smaller islands, Española. It was like I was on the hot and sweaty hike through the island. Animals I had heard of, like blue-footed boobies and Galápagos tortoises, were mentioned as well as those I never thought of being there like locusts (described as huge grasshoppers).

The excitement in the books starts about halfway in when the small cruise ship Ezzy’s family is on gets hijacked. I’ll leave it a surprise why they were hijacked, but it’s for plausible reasons.

It leads up to the climax where Ezzy, Luke and Aiden (a boy Ezzy’s age), are in a race against time to cross one of the islands. Their father is stuck on the boat with the hijackers, and to boot, a volcano on the island has just erupted.

The ending was exciting and a good end to a great middle grade novel. I would recommend this book to any lower middle grader (grades 4-6), especially those that like adventures and/or natural wonders.

Will the Galápagos Islands be on your bucket list after reading this book? They are still on mine!

Ellen Prager has also written another series of books called, “Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians.” The first book is called The Shark Whisperer, which is about a boy who can “talk” to sharks. He ends up at a camp for those with special sea abilities (like camouflaging). I will review that book in a future post!

Review of documentary Sharkwater: Extinction by Rob Stewart

Rob Steward
Rob Stewart, award-winning biologist, photographer, conservationist, author and filmmaker

I just watched Sharkwater: Extinction (2018) a documentary that stars shark and ocean conservationist Rob Stewart. It’s the sequel to Sharkwater, which came out in 2007. According to the Sharkwater.com biography on Rob, his documentaries along with his activism, has saved 1/3 of the world’s sharks.

But sadly, I learned that 150 million sharks are killed a year, double the 73 million sharks a year number I heard many years ago. Sharks are killed not just for the shark fin trade anymore—shark can be found in cosmetics as squalene or squalane, in pet food or livestock feed and in the “fish” sold in stores and restaurants. Much of the fish in sold in stores is mislabeled, or in the case of shark intentionally mislabeled (maybe by the distributor or fisherman) so consumers will buy the product. It’s dangerous to eat shark because they are full of toxins like mercury. It’s recommended that pregnant women and children don’t eat shark because of that.

Rob and his cameraman got great footage of two sharks still alive in a gill net, but about to meet certain death. They were not able to save the sharks, but their footage helped convince legislators in California to ban gill nets in 2018. Gill nets can be miles long and are made of a clear monofilament that practically disappears underwater. Large animals such as sea turtles, sharks, whales and seabirds swim into the net and get stuck. All the above animals, except most sharks that need to keep swimming to get oxygen, need air to breathe. These caught animals drown before the fishermen pull the nets up.

Gill nets are used in target fisheries, such as for swordfish. Anything not a swordfish is considered bycatch. According to Oceana, an ocean conservation non-profit, up to 63 billion pounds of bycatch is caught every year and thrown back into the ocean. When Rob made Sharkwater: Extinction in 2016, it was only estimated to be 54 billion pounds. Sadly bycatch numbers are up. As is the sobering possibility that by 2050, there will be more plastic and trash in the ocean than fish.

It’s a sad documentary to watch in general, because much of the documentary is footage of shark fins or dead sharks. But there is enough footage of Rob swimming with sharks to be inspiring. The end is sad because Rob passed away before the documentary was complete, and his death completed it. He had been using a rebreather, which is advanced diving, while scuba diving off of Florida. He was looking to film a sawfish in the wild. A rebreather is great for filming wildlife because it produces no bubbles. Instead the carbon dioxide you breathe out is scrubbed out and you breathe in clean oxygen.

The ending montage made me cry, and not just because Rob had died. It’s his moving words that are inspiring. Thanks to his documentaries, his legacy will live on in shark conservationists worldwide. Please visit Sharkwater.com and read, 10 Easy Ways to Save Sharks and watch on Amazon Prime for free (if you’re a subscriber).

Duffy the Sea Turtle: Children’s Picture Book Review

Duffy's Lucky Escape children's book
Duffy’s Lucky Escape children’s picture book

“Duffy’s Lucky Escape,” by Ellie Jackson and Liz Oldmeadow, is a children’s picture book about a sea turtle. She lives on a colorful coral reef. Duffy was minding her own business when a storm came and washed her out to sea. There her adventure with trash in the ocean began…unknown to her she eats some plastic (sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellies). Fortunately she is rescued, rehabilitated, and eventually released back where she belongs.

“Duffy’s Lucky Escape” is based on real events. It is a charming children’s book that gently teaches kids about garbage in the oceans and the dangers that it poses to wildlife.

The illustrations are beautiful and colorful. They are realistic, but still cartoony as you’d expect from a children’s picture book. There are facts about sea turtles at the end as well as ways children can help ocean wildlife such as Duffy. For instance, everyone can use less plastic by using a reusable water bottle instead of single use water bottles and also not use plastic straws.

I highly recommend this book for any school-aged child—it would make a great addition to any library. It teaches in a gentle way, and it has actionable tips so children feel empowered to help ocean wildlife.

There are other Wild Tribe Heroes books. “Marli’s Tangled Tale” is about a puffin who gets tangled in a balloon from a balloon release. Another is “Nelson’s Dangerous Dive” about a whale who gets trapped in fishing nets. A newly released book is “Buddy’s Rainforest Rescue” about an orangutan and palm oil.

For more information, visit Wild Tribe Heroes

Book Review: The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

The Shark Club is an adult fiction novel about a love triangle between a shark-obsessed woman, her childhood love, and the newfound love in her life. It is chock full of facts about the ocean’s inhabitants and is reverent to the ocean itself. It was nice to see written what it’s like to SCUBA dive-not just the mechanics, but the thoughts and emotions that one feels while immersed in the ocean.

As for the love triangle, it wasn’t obvious at the start or through the book whom she’d end up with, and the ending was a bit surprising at first, but was satisfying once I thought about it.

It would be one thing if it were a purely love triangle, but it’s more like a square or even pentagon if you count Maeve’s obsession with sharks despite being bitten by one as a child, and her meeting the daughter of her ex-fiancee, his infidelity the reason for her breakup with Daniel.

Maeve’s love of sharks hindered her first relationship with Daniel as she “chose” the sharks (on an expedition) over Daniel right before they were to be married. Many people are addicted to work and prize it above all else, and Maeve is one of them. I think it’s noble that she’s so committed to her job as a shark biologist and always jetting off to far flung research sites around the world, but it’s clear she has regrets leaving Daniel right before their wedding (and he cheats on her and has a child out of wedlock).

When Maeve meets Hazel, who is 6 years old, she “falls” for the scientist-in-the-making and nurtures her love of sharks and prehistoric sea monsters. They form the “Shark Club” with Maeve, Daniel, and Hazel as members. Maeve and Hazel search for shark teeth on the beach and later make a necklace from it. It’s a cute storyline, and critical to understanding the ending.

All the ocean facts Taylor mentions rang true too me as a marine biologist, but I did wonder why she had to round up the figure of how many sharks a year are killed to 80 million. Usually 73 or 100 million sharks killed a year is the figure given. It’s hard to be accurate with such a high number, and clearly it’s not sustainable to kill that many sharks a year.

The book pays respect to Dr. Sylvia Earle, “Her Deepness,” or as I like to say, the female Jacques Cousteau. She is the most prominent oceanographer alive today, having traveled to the deep ocean and spending 7,000 hours underwater in her life. The protagonist, Maeve, names a lemon shark she likes after her. The author also mentions the on-going lemon sharks studies at the Bimini Research Station in the Bahamas. The book also mentions Dr. Andrea Marshall, also known as “The Queen of the Mantas.” The author mentions her non-profit research facility (The Marine Megafauna Foundation) in Mozambique, Africa. Lastly she mentions Julia Whitty, the author of “The Fragile Edge,” about a woman’s relationship to the ocean.

The side story with her fraternal twin Robin is important, but the ending with him seemed out-of-character and less plausible than the rest of the book. But he, and her aunt Perri who raised them when their parents died, are important in Maeve’s life and that’s why their storylines are included.

I haven’t mentioned the rest of the love triangle, Maeve’s colleague from the Bahamas. Nicholas is technically still married and workplace romances are frowned upon. So Nicholas and Maeve were never officially together, though Nicholas comes to visit her at her Aunt Perri’s hotel where Maeve and Robin grew up and still live. They finally discuss a possible relationship, but put it on hold until Nicholas resolves his marriage in England.

The hotel is in sunny Florida and Maeve has a job there at the Conservancy (forgot full name). If only we all had jobs that would let us fly off to exotic locations for months at a time and still have a job when your return home. This is another reason for you to be jealous of Maeve, besides having two men pine for her.

If you happen to be scared of sharks, I hope you come away from this book with a healthy respect for them. If you love the ocean-especially being in or on it- then run, don’t walk to buy or check-out this book. I requested that my local library buy a few copies and they did! If you like romances, don’t worry as the Maeve biology stuff takes a back seat to the romance.

In short, those who love the ocean will love this book. Those looking for a different sort of love triangle (Daniel, Nicolas, Hazel and the sharks in general) will enjoy this book. There’s no graphic sex so this book could be read by young adults looking to read something beyond teen romances. If there hadn’t been sharks in this book I wouldn’t have picked it up, but fortunately the shark biologist premise sucked me in for 271 pages.