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: 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!

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.

Children’s Book Review: On Kiki’s Reef by Carol L. Malnor and illustrated by Trina L. Hunner

Children's book On KIki's Reef by Carol L. Malnor and illustrated by Trina L. Hunner
On KIki’s Reef by Carol L. Malnor and illustrated by Trina L. Hunner

On Kiki’s Reef (Dawn Publications, 2014) is a delightful children’s picture book about the life cycle of a sea turtle.

Along the way, Kiki meets animals on a coral reef. This book is aimed at lower elementary school grades (4-8 years old). Its ample backmatter will appeal to older children, and to parents who can explain it to their young child.

This book is considered fiction, probably because Kiki has a name and the story is told from her point-of-view in the third person. I would consider it informational fiction because real facts are scattered throughout the 755 word book.

Kiki starts off as a hatchling scurrying to the ocean after hatching on the beach. A page later she is already six years old! This is okay because sea turtles’ life cycles are long (she won’t lay eggs until she’s older than 20 years old) and this is just a picture book!

She “meets” coral, clownfish and the colorful fish (tangs and wrasses) that clean her shell of algae. I won’t give away all the animals she meets, which by the way she never talks to, but she even meets a human diver.

Then the book is over when she lays her eggs on the beach where she was born.

The backmatter includes more information on all the creatures mentioned or pictured in the book, and “Carol’s Teaching Treasures,” which includes the author’s activities for kids, web links and book suggestions.

The backmatter invites repeated readings, as children will be searching for all the critters mentioned.

Overall I recommend this book to all elementary school aged children who want to be introduced to not only sea turtles, but to the other denizens of the coral reef.

Children’s Book Review: If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams

Book: "If Sharks Disappeared" by Lily Williams
Book: “If Sharks Disappeared” by Lily Williams

If Sharks Disappeared, is written and illustrated by Lily Williams, and published by Roaring Brook Press. It is a much needed book about sharks. There are numerous children’s books about sharks, but not many show sharks in a positive light.

Instead of painting sharks as blood-thirsty human eaters, Williams shows how important sharks are to the ocean ecosystem. There is one “scary” picture of a great white shark, but it is cartoon-like enough not to be really scary. Otherwise Williams’ charming artwork depicts sharks as not scary and almost friendly (which most are!).

My favorite page shows a couple dozen sharks of different sizes and shapes. As a marine biologist it was a puzzle to try and figure them all out as they are not labeled. I also liked how there was dark-skinned girl as our guide throughout the book as showing diversity is becoming important in children’s books.

The “if sharks disappeared” portion of the book is not alarmist, but rational showing literally an ecosystem without sharks. The backmatter consists of a glossary and more information about how sharks are in trouble and what you can do to save them.

All in all, not just shark-loving kids will like this book. Most readers will be delighted with Williams’ shark artwork and will learn more about sharks at the same time. I highly recommend that you check out If Sharks Disappeared! (link to order)

Book Preview of “If Sharks Disappeared” and Interview with Author Lily Williams

Book: "If Sharks Disappeared" by Lily Williams
Book: “If Sharks Disappeared” by Lily Williams

I was excited to come across this four minute long animated documentary, FINconceivable, about what happens if sharks disappear from the oceans. It is by Lily Williams and I would like to share it with you. link to FINconceivable I love her artwork and I even bought a her print of a whale shark! Lily’s online shop

I also had Lily answer a few questions, and I am thrilled to announce that her book, “If Sharks Disappear,” (Roaring Brook Press) will be in bookstores on May 23, 2017! (link to order)

1.Tell me how you came up with the idea of FINconceivable.

I came up with the idea for FINconceivable after posting my “What Happens When Sharks Disappear?” infographics online. I realized people wanted more information beyond the 3 infographics, so I decided to make FINconceivable my thesis film.

2. How long did it take to make?

It took a school year to make. I created FINconceivable as my 4th year thesis film at California College of the Arts.

3.Sharks are often portrayed as dangerous and an animal we should be fearful of. Why do you love sharks?

I love sharks because they are evolution perfected: older than dinosaurs and have lived through major extinction events. I always root for the underdog though, and with all the over fishing, shark finning, and trophy hunting, sharks are the sort of the underdog right now. They are indeed fierce apex predators that we should respect, but we also need to protect them. Without sharks, we won’t have an ocean to love.

4. Congratulations on the upcoming publication of “If Sharks Disappeared”on May 16, 2017. I am a writer that is trying to get traditionally published-can you give my readers a sneak peek on your journey to publication?

Thank you! My editor from Roaring Brook Press came across my “What Happens When Sharks Disappear?” infographics online and emailed me asking if I would write a book. After that phone call, I found an agent. A lot of things really fell into place seemingly easily… but, from that first phone call to publishing date, 4 years passed and a lot of hard work, research, and dedication went into making that final product. I am really excited for If Sharks Disappeared to be published!

Book Review: Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies

Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies
Manatee Rescue by Nicola Davies

“Manatee Rescue” by Nicola Davies (Candlewick Press, 2015) is a middle grade (grades 4-8) children’s book about a rescued baby manatee in the Amazon. In the backmatter, we find out that this book is based on a true-life story.

There are three types of manatees, the West Indian, African and Amazonian. This book is about the ones that live along the Amazon River in South America.

The protagonist is Manuela. She grows up in a culture where killing manatees is a status symbol. She looks forward to the day when she can kill one alongside her father Silvio. Manuela and Silvio succeed in killing a mother manatee, but nothing prepares Manuela for the instant bond she feels for the manatee calf. She secretly vows to raise the calf and return it to the wild.

Manuela and her father take the two-month-old calf home, and Silvio sells the calf as a pet despite Manuela’s protests. Later that night, Manuela and her friend Libia steal the calf and bring it to Granny Raffy’s. Raffy often rehabilitates wild animals.

At Raffy’s, the two girls learn to take care of the calf, from nursing him to cleaning out his pond. Manuela bonds with the calf, who prefers her feeding him his bottle full of milk.

The two girls make a list of things to do, the most important ones (and seemingly impossible) being getting the villagers to care about and never hunt manatees again.

Without giving away the rest of the story away, I will say this book has a happy ending, both fictionally and in real-life.
The backmatter is informative not only about the manatees themselves, but also about the relationship between the natives and the manatees.

Although meant for kids, I think conservation-minded and animal-loving adults will enjoy this quick read (105 pages). It’s a perfect introduction to manatees and community-based conservation for all ages.