Daughter of the Pirate King #1

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain, Alosa, deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the daughter of the Pirate King.

Alosa is an interesting protagonist who wants others to think that she has no morals; however, she isn’t a completely vicious pirate. Even though she talks about the countless men she has killed, when she takes the crew of the Night Farer captive, she only kills those who are cruel and depraved. She lets the young pirates go and takes several of the pirates on as crew members. Plus, she doesn’t allow anyone to kill Riden’s brother, Draxen, because she doesn’t want to cause Riden pain.

Alosa’s only weakness is her loyalty to her father, who is cruel beyond measure. She wants to make the Pirate King proud, but her main motivation is her fear of being punished. Alosa’s desire to please her father is implausible especially because his “training” was torturous and cruel. Even though the Pirate King does not appear in Daughter of the Pirate King, his influence continues to guide Alosa’s actions.

Daughter of the Pirate King is a fast-paced story that gives the reader a window into the pirate world. Despite this, none of the pirates are typical. Instead, the cast of characters is unique and shows that even in the pirate world some are despicable, and some are honorable. While Alosa’s female crewmembers do not appear often, they demonstrate the value of honesty, loyalty, and friendship. Plus, Riden adds a dash of romance, and the banter between Alosa and Riden is a lot of fun.

Full of twists, turns, and betrayals, Daughter of the Pirate King will keep readers interested until the very end. However, the pirate’s life is full of violence and the book does not shy away from graphic descriptions of bloody fights. If you’re a swashbuckler ready for adventure, you will have a hard time putting Daughter of the Pirate King down. However, if you’re looking for an excellent pirate book with a little less violence, Piratica by Tanith Lee would be an excellent choice.

Sexual Content

  • When Draxen takes Alosa as a prisoner, he warns her, “‘You will be the only woman on a ship full of cutthroat thieves, and blackhearts who haven’t made port in a good long while. You know what that means?’ Alosa responds, ‘It means your men haven’t been to a whorehouse recently.’”
  • Alosa’s father “bedded” a siren.
  • Alosa goes into a town that has “a tavern on one side of the street, a whorehouse on the other.”
  • Alosa and Riden struggle and Riden throws her on the bed. Alosa “is about to tell him to shove off, but then I feel his lips at my cheek. He’s not kissing me exactly, just touching my cheek with his lips. . .When he does finally kiss me, it’s right below my ear in that sensitive spot. Then he moves lower, trailing his lips down my neck at the side, then back up in the middle. . . I move my lips to his ear. My teeth grave his ear lobe, and his hands tighten in a different way.” The kissing scene is described over two pages.
  • Riden kisses Alosa. She thinks she should stop him but, “Riden’s lips taste even better than I’d imagined. Or because his hands make my skin tingle where they hold the sides of my face. . . When Riden’s lips move down to my neck, I forget all about my father. There’s nothing except heat and chills all at once. . .” Finally, Alosa pushes Riden away.
  • In order to search Draxen, Alosa tries to seduce him. “When I lift my head up to his, he greedily meets me for a kiss. . .But I get no enjoyment out of this. . . I shove Draxen down on the bed and climb on top of him. . . I can feel the lust burning in him. It’s disgusting and wretched, and I want to stamp it out.” Alosa eventually knocks him out. Then she searches his clothes for a map.
  • In order to search Riden, Alosa tries to seduce Riden. “I trace his upper lip with the tip of my tongue. . . Before I know it, he’s got his hand at the back of my head, the other on the side of my thigh. . . Riden knows where to stroke my skin to make me feel more alive. He has me practically panting under the pressure of his lips.” Alosa almost loses herself in Riden’s arms but uses her siren’s ability to put him to sleep. The scene is described over three pages.
  • One of the pirates likes “the company of other men.”

Violence

  • There is an overabundance of violence in the book and not all scenes are described below.
  • Alosa often thinks about her father’s training. “It doesn’t matter that he shot me once to show me the pain of a gunshot wound, to have me practice fighting while injured. . .It doesn’t matter that he would starve me and weaken me, then give me tasks to complete. . .”
  • Alosa intentionally gets “caught” by Draxen, the captain of the Night Farer. Kearan, a pirate, grabs Alosa. She thinks, “I’m done kneeling on the floor like some servant. Bracing my hands against the wooden deck, I extend my legs backward, hooking my feet behind the heels of the ugly pirate standing there. With one yank forward, Kearan topples backward. . . I hear scuffling as Kearan finds his feet. I jerk my elbow backward, connecting with his enormous gut. There’s a large splat as he collapses on the ground again.”
  • When Alosa begins struggling to get free, Draxen “removes his right hand from his belt and reaches down for one of his pistols. As soon as he has it, he points it at the first of my men in line and fires. . .the body of my crewman falls backwards.” Alosa and Draxen continue killing each other’s crew until Riden stops them. Alosa is taken prisoner but the crew is set free. The scene is described over four pages.
  • When Riden gets too close to Alosa, she knees him “right between the legs.” Alosa then locks Riden in a cell.
  • The Night Farer finds a ship that looks abandoned. Riden and Alosa go to check it out and are surprised by three men, who were in a hidden room. Alosa slams her “heel into the foot of the sailor on my right. Then my free hand goes to the other sailor’s throat. I place one hand at the back of each man’s neck. . . it isn’t difficult to connect their heads. Hard.” Then Alosa’s “dagger flies straight and true, finding its place in the sailor’s chest.” Once the ship is safe, the other crew members board it.
  • Shack, one of the Night Farer’s crew members, tortures two prisoners. Later, he finds Alosa alone and grabs her. Alosa struggles to get away and kicks “him in the face with my free foot. His face is a bloody mess now.” Then she stabs him in the stomach. “I don’t wait more than a couple of heartbeats before dislodging the weapon and stabbing again, this time higher, towards the heart… He is dead in seconds.” The scene is described over three pages.
  • Alosa “escapes” from the ship, and Riden finds her. They have a short fight. “I cut him on his arm. Riden is going a bit easy because he doesn’t actually want to hurt me.” Finally, Riden grabs Alosa’s wrist “with his free hand, and raises my sword to my neck. Before I can blink, the hand at my wrist grabs my sword, and he’s pointing both blades at me.” The scene is described over two pages.
  • As punishment, Alosa is put into shackles and hung. “Blood starts to slide down my arms… Every once in a while, I’ll start to regain my strength enough to pull the pressure off my wrist for a brief moment.”
  • Riden explains why he killed his father. Riden’s brother, Draxen “pitched his skill with the sword against our father. . .He [his father] disarmed Draxen and was about to kill him. But I picked up my brother’s fallen sword. And I killed him.”
  • Draxen interrogates Alosa. “Draxen gets behind me and yanks my head backward by my hair. I grimace at the pain. He strikes the side of my face with a closed fist. . . Draxen hits me with his other hand. This one bites more deeply.” Riden steps in and stops Draxen.
  • Alosa and Riden are captured by a pirate named Vordan. Vordan wants to learn about Alosa’s siren abilities. In order to get her to obey, Vordan has someone hurt Riden every time she refuses. A pirate “pulls out his cutlass and rakes it across Riden’s upper arm, cutting through his shirt and sending blood streaming down.” Later, a pirate “steps forward and kicks Riden in the face. Blood trickled out of his nose, staining the sand red… Riden is now unconscious and can’t feel any pain.” During Vordan’s experiments, Riden is injured repeatedly and he is shot twice.
  • Alosa’s crew comes to her rescue. Alosa takes some of the pirates captive and orders her crew to kill the rest. Sorinda “starts stepping behind the men and slitting their throats one after the other. Killing is practically an art for her. The way she moves is magical.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the pirates, Kearan, carries a flask of rum and drinks often. Someone tells Alosa, “He’s an ugly drunk because it takes away the pain. He has no desire to live, yet no desire to die, either. It’s a tough spot to be in.”
  • Riden finds a sleeping tonic hidden in Alosa’s belongings.

Language

  • Profanity is used rarely. Profanity includes arse, bastard, bloody, damn, hell, and piss.
  • Alosa thinks Riden is a “cocky bastard.”
  • Someone calls Alosa a whore.

 Supernatural

  • Alosa’s mother is a siren and Alosa is able to “use the gifts my mother gave me.” She uses her song on Riden. “He follows, captured by my spell. I know what Riden wants in life. Love and acceptance. I weave those into the song and command him to sleep and forget that he ever heard me sing.”
  • Alosa explains her parentage, “for a child who is conceived by a siren on land will be more human than not.”
  • When Alosa uses her siren abilities, “I lose myself in others if I’m focused on their feelings and desires too long. They start to become my own, and I forget who I am.”
  • Alosa can read people’s feelings, but “I can’t read minds. . . I never know the whys behind people’s intentions.”
  • Alosa makes Riden and another pirate see things that are not there. “I imagine a magical world full of new colors and sounds. Butterflies with brightly lit wings flutter around me… Riden bears a look of sheer wonder and astonishment. He reaches out in front of him as if to touch the invisible creatures I’ve placed in front of him.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark

“Little fish, little fish, let me come in.” “Not by the skin of my finny fin fin!” “Then I’ll munch, and I’ll crunch, and I’ll smash your house in!” Mama tells her three little fish that it’s time to make their own homes. Jim builds his house of seaweed, but the big bad shark munches it up. Tim builds his house of sand, but the shark crunches it up. It’s smart Kim who sets up house in an old sunken ship!

This reimagined version of the Three Little Pigs has no fear factor and is silly enough to entertain squirmy readers. Young readers will love watching the big bad shark break into the little fish’s house. But Jim, Tim, and Kim all know the importance of sticking together. In the end, “The big bad shark munched, and he crunched but he would not smash the house in and all his teeth fell out!” After losing all his teeth, the shark is seen eating a salad, and “the three little fish were safe at last.”

The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark has plenty of visual appeal. The ocean world comes to life in bright colors. Jim, Tim, and Kim are orange fish that pop out of the blue ocean. Plus, readers will have fun finding the other ocean creatures, such as a crab and a turtle. The giant-sized shark shows all his sharp teeth as he narrowly misses chomping the fish.

Even though The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 3 sentences that appear in oversized text. Since there is little text on each page, the story is a quick read, making it an excellent bedtime story. The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark is a wonderfully creative fairytale retelling that will entertain readers over and over. Shark-loving readers should also read Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

 

Thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle leaves her boarding school in England to reunite with her family in America. She leaves England a prim and proper lady with a notebook from her father to detail her travels. However, Charlotte quickly discovers that her voyage home is not going to be smooth sailing.

On board The Seahawk, Charlotte fears the majority of the ship’s male crew, including the lone black man Zachariah, who gives her a knife the first time they meet. He warns Charlotte to keep the knife for protection, as “she might need it.” This is the first hint that things aboard The Seahawk aren’t all they seem, but Charlotte’s determined to keep her ladylike composure, especially in front of Captain Jaggery. Jaggery is a refined and educated man, unlike his crew, which prompts a friendship between him and Charlotte. Yet, Charlotte wonders if something more is awry when Jaggery asks that Charlotte become his “informant” and report any talk of rebellion to him.

After her promise, Charlotte discovers that the crew intends to mutiny. When Charlotte reports the threat, Jaggery responds with violence, killing some of the sailors including Zachariah. Suddenly, Charlotte’s journey turns into one of atonement. To fill the gap left by the now dead sailors, Charlotte joins the crew. Then, during a hurricane, the first mate is found with Charlotte’s knife in his chest. After a trial by Jaggery (who now scorns Charlotte because she has sided with the crew), Charlotte is proclaimed guilty, even though she didn’t commit the crime.

In the end, it’s discovered that Zachariah lived through his beating. He helps Charlotte create a plan to rid the ship of Jaggery and prove her innocence. They discover that it was Jaggery who murdered the first mate as a ploy to get rid of Charlotte, whom he hates for being an “unnatural” girl. Charlotte is able to dispatch Jaggery and sail home as a young captain with Zachariah by her side. However, her greatest conflict is the one she faces back on American soil, when her father burns her journal and forces her to be a “lady” again. Charlotte runs away from home when she remembers the words Zachariah once told her: “A sailor chooses the wind that takes the ship from a safe port. . . but winds have a mind of their own.”

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a thrilling and detailed story for young adults. The book is told from Charlotte’s perspective, and she is a compelling narrator. At first, she’s somewhat difficult to like because she’s stuck in her ways, but the reader will sympathize with her desire to do what is right despite the criticism she faces as a woman. While it is unlikely something like Charlotte’s story ever happened at the time, the story is realistic in the context of the era – such as the behavior of the characters, the dialogue, and the use of religion. The end of the book also includes a glossary of ship terms which the author uses for the reader to feel as if they’re on board a ship just like Charlotte is. The overarching message of this story is to follow one’s own path, even in the face of adversity, and Charlotte is a character that embodies that until the end.

Sexual Content

  • Ewing, one of the crew, kisses Charlotte on the cheeks to say goodbye.

Violence

  • Zachariah gives Charlotte a knife for protection.
  • Charlotte uses the knife to scare an animal. “I heard a sound. I looked across the cabin. A rat was sitting on my journal, nibbling at its spine. Horrified, I flung the dirk at it.” The rat runs off.
  • Zachariah describes a past incident where Captain Jaggery punished one of the crew for not tying a knot properly. “Captain Jaggery said Mr. Cranick’s laboring arm was his by rights. Miss Doyle, Mr. Cranick has but one arm now. He was that much beaten by Captain Jaggery, who, as he said himself, took the arm.”
  • Captain Jaggery shows Charlotte that he keeps guns in his cabin.
  • Charlotte describes Jaggery’s violent behavior. “If provoked sufficiently, the captain might resort to a push or a slap with his own open hand. . . I saw him strike Morgan with a belaying pin, one of the heavy wood dowels used to secure a rigging rope to the pin rail. In dismay, I averted my eyes. The fellow was tardy about reefing a sail, the captain said and went on to catalog further likely threats. Confinement in the brig. Salary docking. No meals. Lashing. Dunking in the cold sea or even keelhauling, which, as I learned, meant pulling a man from one side of the ship to the other – under water.”
  • Charlotte finds a gun in one of the crew member’s chests. Another man, Morgan, who catches her, threatens her so she won’t tell the captain. “He lifted a hand, extended a stiletto like a forefinger, and drew it across his own neck as if cutting A spasm of horror shot through me. He was – in the crudest way – warning me about what might happen to me if I took my discovery to the captain.”
  • Captain Jaggery kills a crew member, who tries to start a mutiny. “Captain Jaggery fired his musket. The roar was stupendous. The ball struck Cranick square in the chest. With a cry of pain and mortal shock he dropped his sword and stumbled backward into the crowd. They were too stunned to catch him, but instead leaped back so that Cranick fell to the deck with a sickening thud. He began to groan and thrash about in dreadful agony, blood pulsing from his chest and mouth in ghastly gushes.”
  • Captain Jaggery has Zachariah whipped for starting the unsuccessful mutiny. The first mate “turned Zachariah so that he faced into the shrouds, then climbed up into these shrouds and with a piece of rope bound his hands, pulling him so that the old man was all but hanging from his wrists, just supporting himself on the tips of his bare toes. . . I turned to look at Captain Jaggery. Only then did I see that he had a whip in his hands.”
  • Jaggery says that the first mate, Mr. Hollybrass, will give Zachariah 50 lashes. “Hollybrass lifted his arm and cocked it . . .with what appeared to be the merest flick of his wrist, the whip shot forward; its tails hissed through the air and spat against Zachariah’s back. The moment they touched the old man’s skin, four red welts appeared. . .” Hollybrass continues to whip Zachariah.
  • Charlotte begs the Captain to make it stop. When Captain Jaggery refuses, Charlotte whips him. “He took another step toward me. In a gesture of defense, I pulled up my arm, and so doing flicked the whip through the air, inflicting a cut across the captain’s face. For an instant a red welt marked him from his left cheek to his right ear. Blood began to ooze. . . When [Captain Jaggery] saw they were bloody he swore a savage oath, jumped forward and tore the whip from my hand, whirled about and began beating Zachariah with such fury as I had never seen.” Later, Charlotte sees the sailors dump a hammock overboard, which is said to contain Zachariah’s dead body.
  • After Charlotte joins the crew, Captain Jaggery punishes her. “He struck me across the face with the back of his hand, then turned and walked away.”
  • Charlotte finds Mr. Hollybrass’s body after he’s been killed. “A knife was stuck in his back, plunged so deeply only the scrimshaw handle could be seen. I recognized the design. . .This was the dirk Zachariah had given me.”
  • Charlotte is accused of murdering Mr. Hollybrass since the knife belongs to her. Captain Jaggery threatens to hang her if she can’t prove who killed him.
  • After Charlotte realizes that Captain Jaggery has killed Mr. Hollybrass, he chased her with a pistol to kill her. Jaggery chases Charlotte out to the bow, where he falls into the sea and drowns.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the sailors, Morgan, has a tobacco pouch.

Language

  • Charlotte describes the sailors as “men recruited from the doormat of Hell.”
  • Captain Jaggery says that the men on the ship are unable to understand kindness. He says, “they demand a strong hand, a touch of the whip, like dumb beasts who require a little bullying.” He also calls the crew, “the dirtiest, laziest dogs” and “a poor set of curs.”
  • When Charlotte tells Jaggery that she suspects a mutiny, Jaggery says, “why the devil did you not tell me before?”
  • Captain Jaggery shouts, “damn you!” once.

Supernatural

  • Charlotte considers that Zachariah might’ve appeared to her as a ghost or an angel.

Spiritual Content

  • References to God, the Bible, and Heaven occur occasionally throughout the text. Captain Jaggery occasionally has a Bible with him, and a church service is held on the ship on Sundays, where Charlotte reads passages from the Bible to the crew. Captain Jaggery sometimes refers to himself as a Christian. “And was ever a Christian more provoked than I?”
  • Zachariah compares God to a ship’s captain. “When a ship is upon the sea, there’s but one who rules. As God is to his people, as king is to his nation, as father to his family, so is captain to his crew.”
  • After Cranick’s death, Zachariah wishes to give him a funeral, but Captain Jaggery wants him thrown overboard. Zachariah says, “Even a poor sinner such as he should have his Christian service.” Captain Jaggery replies, “I want that dog’s carcass thrown over.”
  • Charlotte feels responsible for what happened to the crew and Zachariah since she revealed their plot. She prays to God for forgiveness.
  • During Charlotte’s trial, each man swears on the Bible to tell the truth.
  • Zachariah tells Charlotte an old saying, “the Devil will tie any knot, save the hangman’s noose. That Jack does for himself.”

by Madison Shooter

Daughter of the Deep

Ana Dakkar is a freshman at Harding-Pencroft Academy, a five-year high school that graduates the best marine scientists, naval warriors, navigators, and underwater explorers in the world. Ana’s parents died while on a scientific expedition two years ago, and the only family she’s got left is her older brother, Dev, also a student at HP.

Ana’s freshman year culminates with the class’s weekend trial at sea, the details of which have been kept secret. She only hopes she has what it’ll take to succeed. All her worries are blown out of the water when, on the bus ride to the ship, Ana and her schoolmates witness a terrible tragedy that will change the trajectory of their lives.

But wait, there’s more. The professor accompanying them informs Ana that their rival school, Land Institute, and Harding-Pencroft have been fighting a cold war for a hundred and fifty years. Now, that cold war has been turned up to a full boil, and the freshman are in danger of becoming fish food.

In a race against deadly enemies, Ana will make amazing friends and astounding discoveries about her heritage as she puts her leadership skills to the test for the first time.

In Daughter of the Deep, the books 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island written by Jules Verne are more factual than fictional. One of the teachers explains who the book’s characters are and where they fit into modern society. Ana also discovers that she is a descendant of Captain Nemo who “hated the great colonial powers. . . and had personal reasons to hate imperialism.” While introducing the above topic, both the Land Institute and Harding agree that “turning Nemo’s technology over to the world’s governments, or worse, the world’s corporations, would be disastrous.” Riordan repeatedly reminds readers of the danger of the world’s governments and corporations, who are more concerned with keeping their monopolies than helping citizens. This theme is not well-developed, and most teens will quickly forget these passages.

The story is told from Ana’s point of view. Even though she is the heroine, Ana is not portrayed as a perfect person. After her parents died, Ana dissociates; the narrative explains that Ana has talked to the school counselor regarding her grief. While Ana’s talk of her painful menstrual cycle makes her more relatable, the topic will make some younger readers uncomfortable. After the hostiles destroy Harding-Pencroft Academy, killing anyone on campus, Ana decides that the hostiles will be let free without any consequences. In the story’s conclusion, Ana unrealistically forgives the people who destroyed the school and then tried to kill her and her friends.

The story has a large group of characters who are both racially and religiously diverse. Plus, one character, Ester, has autism and needs an emotional support animal. However, even with readers paying close attention, the large cast of characters is difficult to keep track of. Daughter of the Deep has a unique premise, interesting characters, and fun technology; however, the story leaves the reader wondering if justice was served or if Ana’s opponents will just regroup and come back to continue their killing spree. Before jumping into Daughter of the Deep, readers who are intrigued by Jules Verne’s books should read the Max Tilt Series by Peter Lerangis.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • In order to demonstrate a Leyden, Dr. Hewett shoots a student. “The only sound is a high-pressure hiss. For a millisecond, Gem is wrapped in flickering white tendrils of electricity. Then his eyes crossed, and he collapsed in a heap.” Gem recovers quickly.
  • Students from the Land Institute attack the Harding-Pencroft Academy’s yacht. When they board the vessel, they use grenade launchers. “Two fist-size canisters plunk onto our gangway and roll hissing. . . the explosions still leave [Ana’s] head ringing.”
  • A student’s dog helps defend his person. The dog, Top, “joins the party, clamping his jaws around the guy’s throat . . . As it is, he [the attacker] crab-walks backward, screaming and trying to shake off the furious twenty-pound fluff demon attached to his windpipe.”
  • During the attack, “Two hostiles fire their silver weapons. Miniature harpoons impale Elois’s shoulder and Cooper’s leg. White arcs of electricity bloom from the projectiles, both [students] crumple.” When the hostiles continue to fire, “Drue Cardenas shoots another intruder. Unfortunately, the electricity also arcs to Nelinha, who had been in the process of pummeling said intruder with a socket wrench. Both of them go down.” No one is killed, but several are injured. The fight is described over six pages.
  • Caleb, a student from the Land Institute, attempts to kidnap Ana. They are in the ocean when Ana snaps her “head backward and hears the satisfying crunch of Caleb’s nose breaking.” As the two struggle, “help comes from an unexpected direction. Right next to us, a mass of sleek blue-gray flesh explodes out of the sea, and Caleb is body-slammed into oblivion under the weight of a six-hundred-pound bottlenose dolphin.” Ana is able to escape.
  • A huge octopus, Romeo, likes the submarine, the Nautilus. When Ana and Gem first see it, “Gem tackles me and jets me out of the way, but the creature isn’t interested in us. Eight tentacles the size of bridge cables wrap themselves around the Nautilus.” The group manages to safely detach the octopus from the sub.
  • Ana’s brother, Dev, who is captain of the Aronnax, attacks the Nautilus. “The Aronnax’s four torpedoes sail straight over our heads. . .” Before the Aronnax can cause any damage to the Nautilus, “Romeo’s enormous tentacles wrap around the Aronnax, pulling her into an embrace… Romeo snaps the Aronnax like gingerbread. Fire and sea churn together. Giant, silver air bubbles, some with people inside, billow toward the surface.” The Aronnax is destroyed, but everyone survives.
  • There is a multi-chapter confrontation between Dev’s group and Ana’s group. When Ana and Gem try to get back to base, they see “Dev’s skiff is waiting for us. . . a black wedge bristling with weapons like the spines of a porcupine fish. It faces us from only fifty feet away. . . and in the pilot’s seat is my brother. . . We sail over the Dev’s stern . . . Gem shoulders his Leyden rifle and fires two rounds straight into the submersible’s propulsion system.” Once the skiff is out of commission Ana and Gem go to free the hostages.
  • Back at the base, Ana and Gem are attacked before they can get out of the ocean. “The nearest diver jabs [Ana] with his knife. . . The razor-sharp edge rips the fabric and grazes my ribs. . . White spots swim in my eyes. Nevertheless, I use my boots to wrestle my attacker, pushing him backward into one of the pier’s pylons.”
  • In order to get away from her attacker, Ana unsheathes her “blade and stabs him in the BC vest. . . With his vest’s air bladder punctured, my opponent is blinded by bubbles. He starts to sink . . . On his way down, I kick him for good measure.” Socrates, Ana’s dolphin friend, helps in the fight. “While he headbutts the blue-eyed diver into submission, three of the local bottlenose dolphins descend on the other guy . . . The dolphins welcome him to the neighborhood with an extreme tail-fin smackdown.”
  • Gem shoots several of the opponents with non-lethal bullets. The bullets leave them with “nasty red welts in the middle of their foreheads.”
  • When Gem and Ana get to the base, they see their friends “are being held at gunpoint.” Gem uses an alt-tech flash-band and then enters the dining room “but there’s no one left to shoot at. Our friends are still alive, though they’ve looked better. . . All four hostiles are out cold, spread-eagled on the floor, goofy grins frozen onto their faces. . .”
  • Dev finds Ana and Gem. “My brother smacks [Gem] across the head with a ratchet. Gem collapses. . . My brother glares at me. . . He grabs my wrist, slapping the gun from my hand, then steps in and twists, attempting to throw me over his shoulder.” The brother and sister fight until, “[Ana] shoot[s] him three times. The last rubber bullet snaps his head back, raising an ugly red spot right between the eyes.” Dev is taken as prisoner and locked in a room. The casualties from the battle are minor. There were no deaths on either side.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Students from the Land Institute attempt to kidnap Ana. Ana describes, “Someone behind me locks his forearm across my throat. I feel a sharp pain like a wasp sting in the side of my neck.” Ana discovers that she has been injected with sea-snake venom.
  • Ana takes Midol for period pain.

Language

  • God, oh god and my god are all used as exclamations several times.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Ana’s school is attacked and destroyed, she prays, “Three-Eyed One, Lord Shiva, who nourishes all beings, may He liberate us from death.”
  • While thinking about her ancestors, Ana thinks, “Ester and I were bound together before we were born. It makes me wonder about reincarnation and karma, and whether our souls might have met at another time.”
  • After Ana realizes that her brother destroyed their school, she said “a prayer for my brother, and for the future.”

Swashby and the Sea

No-nonsense Captain Swashby has lived his life on the sea, by the sea, and with the sea—his oldest friend. He loves his quiet life just as it is: sandy and serene. When new neighbors settle in next door and disrupt his solitude, Captain Swashby leaves notes in the sand: “Please go away!” But the sea “fiddled, just a little” and changed the message to read, “PL—AY.” Could it be that the sea knows exactly what he needs?

Captain Swashby is reluctant to spend time with his neighbors, but the sea “decided to meddle more than just a little” and soon Captain Swashby discovers that “it was easy for Swashby to have tea with the girl and her granny—and ice cream, and lobster, and s’mores on the beach. It was easy for him to share his special sea glasses.”

Captain Swashby’s story is beautifully illustrated in sandy browns and ocean blues. Sometimes, Captain Swashby scowls and looks like a grump, but that doesn’t stop his new neighbor from asking him to play. The new neighbors—a girl and her grandmother—are African American and they both are adorably cute. The illustrations do an excellent job of conveying the characters’ wide range of emotions. As readers explore the illustrations, they may want to look for the seagulls that are scattered throughout the pages.

Even though Swashby and the Sea is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Parents may need to explain some of the more difficult language, such as serene, civilized, and commandeered. Even though each page only has 1 to 4 sentences, the complex sentence structure may be difficult for young readers.

Swashby and the Sea is a sweet story that little readers will love. Anyone who has met someone that appears a little bit grumpy and unfriendly will relate to the story. In addition, Swashby and the Sea shows the importance of making new friends. Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley is another book that ocean-loving readers will enjoy and it also teaches an important lesson about friendship!

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When the sea changes his message, Captain Swashby says, “Barnacle bottoms.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Fable #1

Seventeen-year-old Fable only wants one thing: to reunite with her father, Saint. Even though he abandoned her on an island four years ago after her mother’s death, Fable still wants to earn a place among her father’s crew. The first step is to escape from Jeval, the cutthroat island Fable refuses to call her home. She spends her days scavenging for rare minerals and trading with a helmsman named West in exchange for measly amounts of copper. Eventually, Fable has enough copper to escape Jeval on West’s ship, Marigold, and make her way across the sea—The Narrows—to the city of Ceros where her father’s trading empire has flourished. However, aboard the ship, Fable discovers that there’s more to her story and the ship’s crew than what meets the eye.

Fable learns that the Marigold isn’t West’s ship, rather it belongs to her father. While keeping her identify as Saint’s daughter a secret, she also discovers that West and the rest of the crew have secrets of their own. Willa, the crew’s only other female, is West’s sister. Plus, Paj and Austere are running from a dark past. But West is hiding the most: after Fable is scorned by her father once more, Saint reveals that he made an agreement with West to give Fable money and take care of her from afar. Saint claims this is the best thing he could’ve done for Fable because she would learn to survive the harsh world. Fable narrates that Saint “expected me to be grateful for the hell he’d put me through, so he could take credit for who I was. . . I’d crossed the Narrows for a man who’d probably never even loved me. For a dream that would never come true.”

Even after this disappointment, Fable still finds a reason to go on– she does have a family– but it isn’t one made by blood. Fable realizes that the crew of the Marigold are the ones who have protected and nurtured her. She hopes to use the inheritance given to her by her father to buy the Marigold, so West and the crew can be free from Saint, just like her. The book ends on a cliffhanger when Fable is kidnapped, so readers will be reaching for the next book, Namesake: A Novel, to discover if Fable achieves her goal.

Fable as a story is both entertaining and exciting. The reader is thrown directly into a world with new places, names, jobs, and nautical terminology that may take a while to grasp, but contribute to a fast-paced plot that is still understandable and full of unexpected twists. Sometimes, it can be hard to believe that these young kids are able to fend for themselves like experienced adults, but they also live in a world where they had to grow up fast or they wouldn’t get the chance to grow up at all.

The novel is told through Fable’s point of view and emphasizes the idea of “found family,” a group of individuals pulled together by similar circumstances or experiences that come to trust and care for each other like a blood family. This is especially meaningful because of how Fable’s father is against caring for other people and fails to realize that there is strength in having others around you.

While Fable’s life is vastly different than the lives teens lead today, it’s hard not to root for her because of how passionate she is to find her father. When this dream falls short of her expectations, Fable wins our hearts again when she uses this setback as a learning experience; it’s not a father she wants, it’s a family. Fable’s willingness to trust the crew of the Marigold shows that no matter one’s past, love and acceptance are waiting if we open our hearts.

Sexual Content

  • Fable describes what happens behind the closed doors of taverns. Fable had “seen enough of my father’s crew disappear into taverns with purses full of coin and leave with empty ones. There were only two things strictly forbidden on a ship because both could get you or your shipmates killed: love and drunkenness. Only on dry land could you find someone to warm your bed or empty a bottle of rye into your belly.”
  • The innkeeper thinks that West and Fable are going to have sex. West “dropped three coppers on the counter, and she tucked them into her apron, smiling up at me knowingly. I blushed when I realized what she was thinking. . . The woman winked at me, but West didn’t bother correcting her and I wondered if it was because I wasn’t the first girl he’d brought into the tavern and disappeared up the stairs with.”
  • Willa kisses West platonically on the cheek.
  • Paj and Auster, two male crew members, are in a relationship. They hold hands occasionally. “Auster wound his pale fingers into Paj’s before he brought his hand to his lips and kissed it.”
  • West and Fable kiss underwater while examining a sunken ship. “Before I could even think about what he was doing, his lips touched mine. . . I kissed him again, hooking my fingers into his belt and trying to pull him closer. . . I had wanted to touch West a thousand times.”
  • West and Fable have a long, intimate moment which implies that they have sex. Fable narrates, “I lifted onto my toes, pressing my mouth to his. . . His hand found my hips, and he walked me back until my legs hit the side of the bed. I opened his jacket and pushed it from his shoulders before he laid me down beneath him. His weight pressed down on top of me and I arched my back as his hands caught my legs and pulled them up around him. . . My head tipped back, and I pulled him closer so I could feel him against me. He groaned, his mouth pressed to my ear and I tugged at the length of my shirt until I was pulling it over my head. He sat up, his eyes running over every inch of me. . .”

Violence

  • Fable’s life on Jeval has been cutthroat. She’s had to hurt other people or been hurt by them. She says, “It had been four years since the day I was dumped on the blazing hot beach and left to fend for myself. Forced to scrape hulls in exchange for rotten fish when I was starving, and beaten for diving in another dredger’s claimed territory again and again.”
  • Fable often references a scar on her arm, which was given to her by her father. “He carved into my arm with the tip of his whalebone knife.” She also says, “I had watched in horror as he dragged the tip of his knife through my flesh without so much as a twitch of his hand.” Eventually, she describes the whole scene. “I didn’t know what he was going to do until the tip of the knife had already drawn blood. . . I buried my face into my knees and tried not to scream as he cut into me.”
  • Koy, a sailor who takes Fable out on his boat, attacks her for money. Fable had been diving. “Just as I reached the surface, something caught hold of my arm. . . Koy’s face was looking up at me, his hands clamped tightly around my wrist. I kicked, catching him in the shoulder with the heel of my foot and his fingers slipped from me. I swam as fast as I could toward the light, feeling the darkness creeping over my mind, and when I finally broke through to the air, I choked, my lungs twisting violently in my chest. . . Koy came up in the next breath, launching in my direction. I tried to swim from his reach, but he took hold of my hair and wrenched me back to him. . .I twisted, rearing my elbow back with a snap, and it caught him in the face. . . By the time I reached the [boat’s] hull, he had ahold of my foot. . . I slipped, hitting the side [of the boat] with my face so hard that the light exploded in my head. I found the edge with my fingers again before I pulled myself back up and reached inside, my hand frantically looking for the scull. When I had it, I threw my arm back, hitting Koy in the head with the flat end. He stilled suddenly, falling back into the water. . . Koy’s eyes rolled back into his head as he sank, a stream of red inklike blood spilling from his forehead.”
  • Fable pulls Koy back into the boat. “I stood over Koy, my hands shaking. He was still losing a steady stream of blood, and I hoped he wasn’t breathing. I hoped he was dead. . . I kicked him hard, screaming, before I fell back onto the deck beside him, trying to catch my breath.”
  • Koy says to Fable, “If I ever see your face on this island again, I’ll tie you to the east reef! I’ll watch the flesh rot from your bones!”
  • Willa, the only girl on board the Marigold besides Fable, has a burn on her face. Fable says, “I’d seen wounds like that before—a long knife held over a fire until the blade glowed and pressed to someone’s face to teach a lesson.”
  • In the past, Willa was hurt by a man named Crane. The crew find Crane, seal him in a crate, and toss him overboard. “The man screamed once more as he was raised up and over the side of the ship. At the same moment, every finger slipped from the crate and they let it go. . .” This makes Fable remember the punishments on her father’s ship. “Once, I’d crept onto the deck in the dead of night and saw him cut the hand off a thief with the same knife he used to cut his meat at supper. . . I’d forgotten what the sound of a grown man screaming sounded like.”
  • Fable gets jumped in an alley. A man “leaned in closer, stumbling forward as he reached clumsily for my belt. Before he could right himself, I swiped up in one clean motion, catching the edge of his ear with the knife. . . I lifted the blade, setting it at the hollow of his throat and pressing down just enough to draw a single drop of blood. . . I wanted a reason to hurt him. I wanted an excuse to lean forward until the edge of the steel sunk into his skin.”
  • Willa threatens a barkeep by saying, “I’ll stake your body to that counter.”
  • Someone tries to kill Fable as she’s getting on the Below, a man had hold of the last rung [of the ladder]. He laughed himself up out of the water and grabbed my boot, pulling me back down. I kicked until the heel of my foot caught his jaw and he groaned, but he was already climbing.” West comes to save her. “He reached around my waist, taking the knife from my belt. He swung his arm out wide, bringing the blade from the side, and sank it into the man’s ribs. He screamed, his hands trying to grab ahold of me before he slipped, but West kicked him in the chest, sending him backward.”
  • Willa threatens Fable by saying, “If you get [West] killed, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep myself from cutting your throat.”
  • West reveals his past to Fable. “The first helmsman I ever crewed for used to beat me in the hull of the ship. . . I’ve killed sixteen men protecting myself, or my family, or my crew.”
  • At the end of the story, Fable is kidnapped. “I reared my foot back and brought my knee up in a snap, driving it between [her attacker’s] legs and he fell forward, a choking sound strangling in his throat. . . As another man came over me, I swung [a knife] out, grazing his forearm. He looked at the blood seeping beneath his sleeve before he reached down, taking my jacket into his hands and the third man wrenched the knife from my grip. When I looked up again, his fist was in the air, and it came down with a crack across my face. Blood filled my mouth and I tried to scream, but before I could, he hit me again.” Fable is knocked unconscious.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Speck, a man on Jeval, is known as a drunk. Fable says, “If Speck weren’t drunk half the time, I’d pay him for a ride to the reef instead of Koy.”
  • Hamish, a crew member, and Saint, smoke pipes.
  • People frequently go to taverns where people are drinking “rye.” One time, Fable has three glasses and gets drunk.
  • In celebration, the crew drinks rye on the ship together.

Language

  • Bastard is used occasionally to refer to other people. In the book’s opening line, Fable says, “That bastard was leaving me again” when Koy, a sailor, tries to leave on his boat without her.
  • Hell, and ass are used rarely, such as when West says, “Get your ass back on the ship.”

Supernatural

  • Some of the legends of the sea include sea demons and dragons, though none appear in the story. However, Fable references them sometimes. For example, “Only a few days after Saint left me, an old man named Fret started a rumor on the docks that I’d been cursed by sea demons.”
  • Fable’s father told her a legend about dead sailors turning into birds. “My father had always told me that seabirds were the souls of lost traders. To turn them away or not give them a place to land or nest was bad luck.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Maddie Shooter

 

Peter and the Sword of Mercy

Life on the island has continued peacefully for many years. With fallen starstuff in the island’s water supply, no one gets sick and no one ages. So Peter is very surprised when Wendy—Molly’s daughter—shows up on the island in desperate need of help.

Wendy grew up with no idea that the starcatchers existed. After Peter and Molly’s adventure in Rundoon, starstuff stopped falling and it was thought that no more of the Others existed. So the starcatchers stopped recruiting new members and faded to a tiny group of mostly elderly members. Needless to say, the starcatchers are not prepared when trouble brews anew. After both of Wendy’s parents disappear, Lord Aster—elderly and bedridden—tells Wendy there is only one person who can help: A very special boy on an island that is very hard to find.

For fans delighted with the Starcatcher series, as well as the fans who were disappointed with the first two sequels, this final installment ends the series with a flourish! Harkening back to the glory of the first book, Peter and the Sword of Mercy has action and mystery galore. Readers will be shocked when encountering old friends who are twenty years older than in the last book. An elderly Lord Aster and a fading starcatchers’ society are a shock to Peter, as is learning that Molly married George and had a daughter named Wendy.

The mix of old and new characters carries the story along at a breakneck pace. Rather than the fractured storylines that made the last installment difficult to relate to, this book returns to the original book’s more streamlined approach. Readers still follow events from several character’s points of view, but by focusing largely on Peter’s point of view. Peter and the Sword of Mercy succeed in emotionally engaging readers. The shifts in point of view are well-done, are never confusing, and allow readers to view events happening with Peter’s friends as well as the events put in motion by the Others.

With non-ending action, a broadcast of colorful characters, and the emotional rollercoaster ride of returning to London after twenty years, Peter and the Sword of Mercy is a glorious ending to a beloved series.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • In the year 811 A.D., two warriors battle. “Charlemagne drew his sword, known as Joyeuse. Both men grunted as they swung their weapons, the blades glinting in the firelight, the clash of metal echoing off the chapel’s stone walls . . . Ogier swung his sword, just missing Charlemagne’s jaw but slicing off a piece of the king’s beard.” The fight is described over two pages.
  • When a bobby tries to grab Molly, “she drew back her right foot and kicked him hard on the shin. As he bent over in pain, she yanked her arm free with all her strength, ripping her sleeve but freeing herself. She ran.” She gets away unharmed.
  • A character named the Skeleton is able to cause excruciating pain with the slightest touch. “The Skeleton’s claw-hand moved, ever so slightly. The priest screamed as his body was wracked with searing pain, starting at his neck but suddenly everywhere at once.”
  • Wendy crashes a flying machine called an ornithopter. “Wendy felt a stab of pain as her head struck the ornithopter frame. Before she could hold her breath she was dragged underwater.” She is rescued by porpoises.
  • Peter is hurt when his ship crashes. “Peter and Wendy were hurled sideways, slamming into the passageway wall. Peter’s head hit something, and he fell to the floor, dazed.”
  • A bad man threatens to burn his henchmen. The henchmen obey him immediately because “one time he’d pulled out most of a man’s hair by the roots. He’d reached into another man’s mouth and yanked out a gold tooth. They figured he was perfectly capable of using their bodies as fuel for smoke signals.”
  • A crewman tries to stop Wendy from escaping. She “drew back and kicked out with all her strength. Suddenly her shoe came off in his hand and she fell backward over the railing.”
  • Peter and his friends set off an explosion as a distraction. “Fortunately for them, none of the bobbies were directly in front of the door when it blew, although all of them were thrown violently backward and onto the ground.”
  • Peter pushes a bobby as they try to escape. “The three bobbies, yelping in pain and fear, tumbled after her. Peter had shoved the first from behind; he had taken the other two down, like bowling pins. They sprawled onto the floor, moaning.”
  • The Skeleton hurts Peter with his touch. “And then he [Peter] screamed in pain. Without knowing how he got there, he realized he was on his knees. The awful pain had receded from his body, but it had left him too weak to stand.”
  • The Skeleton hurts a prisoner. “He reached out his claw and touched the shoulder of the man next to James. The man screamed and fell to the floor.”
  • Von Schatten, one of the Others, attacks James. “Von Schatten spun, bringing the sword around. The flat side caught James in the forehead with a sickening sound. James fell to the ground, blood gushing from his head.”
  • James electrocutes von Schatten. Afterward Peter “screamed at the ghastly sight only inches from his face: Von Schatten lay twitching on his back, smoke pouring from his clothes as his flesh burned with a stomach-turning stench. The worst was his face. His eyeglasses had melted, forming two back rivers down his gaunt cheeks. Left exposed were the eyes, which were not eyes at all, but two gaping holes in the center of his skull, revealing nothing inside but a red glow. Wisps of smoke drifted upward from the holes.”
  • As a tunnel collapses, “huge chunks of earth and rock began to fall from the tunnel roof. A roof beam fell on George, knocking him to the ground.”
  • Hook attacks Peter. “He brought the sword down . . . but Peter’s hand was just quick enough as he brought the sword tip up to meet Hook’s downward thrust . . . [then] the porpoise, having launched himself from the water on the starboard side, slammed into Hook’s body, sending him sprawling on deck.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Two ships crash because “the helmsman of the Lucy had also had a bit too much to drink this night. He was half asleep at the wheel.”

Language

  • Imbeciles is used a few times.

Supernatural

  • Starcatchers are “a small group of people . . . There have been Starcatchers on Earth for centuries, Peter. Even we don’t know how long. But our task is always the same: to watch for the starstuff, and to get to it, and return it, before it falls into the hands of the Others.” The Others misuse starstuff to gain power.
  • Starstuff is golden dust that sometimes falls from the sky as meteors and “has amazing power . . . Wonderful power. Terrible power. It . . . it lets you do things . . . It’s not the same for everybody. And it’s not the same for animals as for people.” Starstuff can heal, can make people fly, can make people strong. Larger quantities are more dangerous and can kill a person, or turn a fish into a mermaid, horses into centaurs, and other transformations.
  • Starcatchers have learned the language of some intelligent animals, including bears, porpoises, and wolves. They work together often to find any starstuff that falls. Wendy speaks with a porpoise several times, in their language of clicks and squeaks.

Spiritual Content

  • In a flashback to 811 A.D., a king “prayed for the peace to continue. And, as always, he prayed for forgiveness for his son, now forty, but still a boy in his father’s eyes . . . [he] bowed his head, his lips moving as he recited the Scripture.”
  • During a sword fight, the king from 811 A.D. sees a “face smiling at him, shimmering through the smoke with unearthly beauty.” He thinks it is an angel. The being saves the man’s life, then disappears.
  • The queen of England is sick; a man by her bedside “murmured a prayer.”
  • When the Skeleton tortures a priest for information, the priest’s “lips began to move. He spoke in Latin, praying.”

by Morgan Krueger

Clark the Shark

Clark is a shark with zing, bang, and BOOM. Clark zooms into school, crashes through the classroom, and is rowdy at recess. Clark loves life and always means well—but when his enthusiasm is too much for his friends, Clark’s teacher (Mrs. Inkydink) helps him figure out a way to tone it down.

Clark the Shark celebrates boisterous enthusiasm—and knowing when it’s time for indoor voices! The picture book is fun to read aloud because it uses rhyming, alliteration, and fun wordplay such as when Clark makes up a new game called “tail-whump-a-lumpus.” Another positive aspect of the story is that when Clark has a hard time remembering the rules, he turns the rules into a rhyme. “In class, when lessons got exciting, Clark wanted to bounce up out of his seat. Instead, he told himself: ‘When teacher’s talking, don’t go walking.’”

Clark’s struggle to “stay cool” comes to life in bright, full-page illustrations that show Clark and an array of other classmates—a fish, a crab, a jellyfish, and an octopus. The sea creatures are adorably cute as they take on human characteristics such as wearing clothes, reading books, and sitting at a desks. One fish even wears glasses! Clark’s facial expressions are sometimes silly, but they show the shark’s wide range of emotions.

Each page of the picture book has 1 to 7 sentences. Some of the text is large and bold to illustrate the idea that Clark is yelling. Even though Clark the Shark is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently.

Get ready to use silly voices as you read Clark the Shark to your little reader. The book is a perfect introduction to going to school and following the rules, which include staying still during class, not yelling, being gentle with your classmates, and not munching a bunch of your classmates’ lunches. Clark the Shark uses humor to teach readers about controlling their impulses. If you are looking for picture books that use sharks to teach about friendship, you should also add The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark by Deborah Diesen and Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

The Secret Explorers and the Lost Whales

Meet the Secret Explorers! This group of brilliant kids comes together from all four corners of the globe to fix problems, solve mysteries, and gather knowledge from all over the planet – and beyond. Whenever their help is needed, a special sign will appear on a door. They step through to the Exploration Station and receive their mission…

In The Lost Whales, marine life expert Connor needs to use his underwater expertise to save a pod of humpback whales who have lost their way. Along with space expert Roshni, Connor sets out in a submarine to search for a way to steer the whales back on track. However, they encounter unexpected problems along the way, including lost baby whales and a fleet of boats. Will the Secret Explorers manage to succeed in their mission?

Even though The Secret Explorers are a large, diverse group of children, The Lost Whales focuses on Connor and Roshni. Even though the children are smart, they are not perfect, which makes them more relatable. Some humorous scenes are mixed in with the facts. For example, in order to get a pod of whales to swim in another direction, Connor raps. Roshni teases him by saying, “That has to be the worse rapping that I’ve heard in my life. I think I cringed my way into a parallel universe.”

The book is jam-packed with whale facts. While a lot of the information is integrated into the story’s plot, at times the lessons seem forced. For example, Connor and Roshni find red sea algae, which is bad for ocean animals. Connor thinks, “There’s no sense in blaming the algae though. They fed on farm fertilizer that had been washed out to sea and grew so fast because climate change had warmed the oceans.” Despite this, readers will enjoy learning about whales and other ocean creatures.

During the adventure, Connor and Roshni put on scuba gear and swim toward a boat. When Connor and Roshni approach the boat, they ask permission to board, and a young boy gives them permission even though he is on the boat deck alone. While this part of the plot is essential to solving a problem, parents may want to discuss why that could have been a dangerous situation.

The Lost Whales has large black and white illustrations that will help break up the text and help readers understand the plot. Characters’ thoughts are easy to distinguish because they are in bold text. While younger readers may struggle with some of the difficult vocabulary and the length of the book, the book’s educational value makes it worth parents’ time to read the book aloud to their children. The book ends with 6 pages of additional facts, a glossary, and a quiz.

The Lost Whales has a blend of action, problem-solving, and ocean life facts that will make parents and young readers happy. The books do not need to be read in order because each book describes a new adventure. Readers will be excited to read the rest of the books in the series because they cover a wide variety of topics, including archaeology, dinosaurs, space, and other high-interest topics.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When there is a Secret Explorers mission, a “glowing shape” appears on the pantry door. When Connor goes into the pantry, “the shelves of food were gone, and instead there was a dazzling white light. Connor’s heart thudded. Wind whipped against his face, as if he were traveling really fast.” Connor is transported to the Exploration Station.
  • The Beagle can change into different types of transportation and magically takes its occupants to where they need to go.
  • The Beagle can also change shape. “The Beagle began to transform. The wheels slide away. A joystick replaced the steering wheel. Glass rose around them.” When the transformation is complete, the Beagle turns into a submarine.
  • When Connor gets back from his adventure, he discovers that no time has passed so no one has missed him.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Catnapped!

Fighting like cats and dogs? Exactly! The puppy pirates played a prank on the kitten pirates and meow! the kittens sure are mad. After an ambush, the kittens capture some of the Salty Bone’s crew. The puppies are able to find their way out of lockup, but how will they escape the ship? Can the pups escape the kittens’ claws? It’s dogs versus cats, and may the best pirates win.

Catnapped shows that even the bravest pirates sometimes feel fear. For instance, Wally is terrified of the water. Despite his fear, Wally jumps to the rescue when his friends need him. While escaping the kittens’ pirate ship, someone drops an oar which floats away. Wally swims in the ocean so he can retrieve the boat’s oar. Without Wally’s bravery, the puppy pirates would have been stranded in the middle of the ocean.

Even though the puppies’ pranks are humorous, the story shows how one prank can cause a host of problems. When Wally and the others finally break free, some of the puppies want to seek revenge. Old Salt gives wise advice, “Consider your next steps carefully, Captain. I just mean, maybe it’s best to end this here. Don’t go looking for more trouble.”

Each book in the Puppy Pirates Series focuses on the same characters while still adding plenty of unexpected action to the story. The black and white illustrations are adorably cute and will also help readers understand the story’s plot. With short chapters, large text, and illustrations every 1 to 5 pages, Catnapped is the perfect book for readers ready for chapter books.

Catnapped takes the feud between cats and dogs and creates an entertaining story that pirate-loving readers will enjoy. Young landlubbers will be eager to find out how the pirate puppies escape the kittens’ claws. With 7+ books in the series, the Puppy Pirates Series has plenty of adventure to entertain readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The kitten pirates ambush the puppies. “The cats were clearly angry, all hisses and claws.” A puppy turns on the sprinklers, and “the kitten pirates panicked and ran toward the trees.”
  • The kitten pirates trick the puppies. “A net fell from the tree, right on top of Wally, Henry, Spike, and Puggly.” The kittens lock them up at the bottom of their ship.
  • As the puppies escape in a dingy, the cats throw hairballs at them.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When some of the puppy pirates are kidnapped, the puppies escape by giving the kittens catnip. The kittens “squealed and squeaked and flopped all over the wooden dock. They were out of control.”

Language

  • A kitten pirate calls two pugs “scurrrrrvy dogs.”
  • A puppy calls a group of kittens “hairballs.”
  • A dog says the kittens are “just a bunch of pussycats.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Submerge

Lia and Clay’s love has broken the Little Mermaid’s curse, but their ever after may not be as happy as they planned. Lia is adamant about staying on land with Clay for her senior year despite her family’s opportunity to move to the new, sparkling capital city below the waves. But before any decision about the future can be made, her family must endure Melusine and her father’s trial, where new revelations will have far-reaching consequences that threaten what Lia holds most dear.

The verdict will shake Lia’s world, calling into question her future with Clay, her feelings for Caspian, and the fate of all Merkind. As she wonders who to trust, Lia sets out on a treacherous path that will lead her away from her sheltered Malibu home to a remote and mysterious school for Mermaids—Mermaids who may hold the secret to an ancient magic Lia can use to get back all she’s lost.

As a “princess,” Lia must learn about Mer politics. However, much of Lia’s teaching is dry and boring. In class, Lia learns about “magic having unintended political consequences.” Even though the story introduces the Mer world, Lia explores very little of it. Instead, her only focus is on restoring Clay’s memory so they can be together. Lia is so focused on herself that she never notices anyone else’s needs. Unfortunately, Lia’s single-minded focus on Clay becomes tedious.

The first part of Submerge is a retelling of the events from the first book in the series. The repetition is long-winded and readers will quickly lose interest in the court proceedings. In addition, a Mer teacher, Ondine, is introduced. Instead of adding interest to the story, Lia’s trust in Ondine is unbelievable, and Ondine’s betrayal, predictable. To make matters worse, Caspian is suddenly in love with Lia, which adds another unbelievable element to the story. The conclusion doesn’t wrap up any of the story’s threads and reinforces the idea that Lia cannot think past her own wants. Readers who love Disney’s Little Mermaid will want to throw the Mer Chronicles into the ocean and watch it sink to a watery grave.

Sexual Content

  • Mers get their legs during puberty because they need legs “for mating.”
  • Lia and her boyfriend kiss. Lia describes the kiss. “I let my eyes flutter shut. Let myself taste Clay’s lips against mine. Get lost in the richness of every touch, every press of his tongue and graze of his cheek.”
  • When Lia shows Clay her tail, he kisses her. “Slow and sweet and swirling to different depths. I forget everything else.” The kiss is interrupted when Clay’s mother walks in on them.
  • Clay and Lia kiss often. For example, while swimming in the ocean, “strong arms grab me and pull me against him, my wet body pressing against his. . . Droplets of water from his face collide with mine as he takes my mouth in a kiss as sweeping as the sea breeze itself.”
  • Clay and Lia discuss the trial. Then they kiss. “Now he does pull me in, pressing my body flush against his and seizes my mouth violently with his. There’s a wildness, a fervor, in his kiss I’ve never felt before. . . So I push back with equal ferocity.”
  • Clay is preparing to take a potion that will take away some of his memories when Lia and Clay decide to have sex for the first time. “Clay’s eyes close as he bites the bottom of my lip. When he opens them again, desire darkens the hazel. I’ve never seen such naked hunger.” Clay stops kissing her so they can go somewhere private.
  • Before Clay takes the potion, Lea wants to give Clay a memory that he will not forget so they have sex for the first time. Clay’s “palms skim up and down my arms, leaving streaks of exhilarating tingles in their wake from shoulder to wrist. My fingers twine into his hair as our mouths latch together, more lasting and leading than ever before. . . He grabs what he needs from the nightstand (and there’s something that seems both so comforting and so momentous about that small, foil packet), and then he moves toward me. . .Time surges and crests, and we move with it, holding each other close. . .”
  • After Clay loses his memory, Lia’s sister tells her, “A rebound hookup can be totally hot.”
  • In the middle of the night, Lia and Clay show up at Clay’s father’s house, which is on a military base. His father gets upset and says, “I got you security clearance so you could feel at home here, not so you could . . . score with girls.”
  • After Lia fights against ancient magic and wins, Lia and Clay kiss. “Clay’s lips are on mine the instant the door clicks shut. Hands run up my bare arms and tangle in my hair as biceps cloaked in thin cotton press against my eager palms. His tongue welcomes me, drawing me in until I’m utterly lost in his kisses, drowning in the sensations of soft lips and rough stubble. . . ”

Violence

  • A Mermaid describes her mother’s death. When her mom went shopping, raiders “cut her throat. Left her to die.”
  • Someone tells Lia a story about a siren who wanted revenge “so she used the siren bond she shared with him to sense when he was alone and to call him to her so she could murder him in cold blood after making him—”
  • In order to manipulate Lia, Ondine binds Caspian. “The ropes tighten more and more until Caspian, so strong and stoic, can’t help but scream.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Lia’s sisters are looking forward to college keg parties.
  • A mermaid, who was a siren, is given a potion that will not allow her to speak in the human world.
  • The Mer Tribunal gives Clay a potion that takes away all of his memories of Lia. “The potion works by constructing extremely powerful wands that completely block Clay’s mind from accessing certain memories.”
  • Clay is given antidepressants because of his depression; however, he doesn’t know if he should take them.

Language

  • Several different forms of damn are used occasionally.
  • During a trial, Lia watches the defendant and wonders, “What the hell does he have to smile about?”
  • When the Mermaid that tried to kill Clay and Lia testifies, Lia thinks, “That bitch starts talking. I don’t trust myself not to snap.”
  • God is used as an exclamation twice.
  • Pissed is used twice. For example, Lia thinks, “The last thing I want to do is piss off the psycho with raging powers . . .”
  • Clay says “eff that” and later he says, “I was so goddamn helpless and you needed me!”

Supernatural

  • Most Mer do not use ancient magic, but they do utilize potions. Much of the story revolves around Lia learning how to use magic.
  • At the trial, Caspian explains how the defendant used runes. The runes, “mapped out coordinates. It was part of a spell—marking Clay’s bedroom with the place under the sea where he would sleep forever.”
  • Because Lia “sirened” Clay, they have a special bond and can feel each other. Lia “can trace him, feel him, no matter how far away he is.” Lia can also use this bond to tell what Clay is thinking and feeling.
  • In order to perform ancient magic, Lia’s palm is cut and she shares her blood with other Mermaids. “Only through blood magic can we forge new links to fully access new power.” The Mermaids then use their combined power to restore Clay’s memories.
  • Ondine forces Lia to take a potion so she can siren humans.
  • Lia uses magic to break Ondine’s hold on her. “The rope of magic grows impossibly brighter. Blinding! I can feel it sizzle and it scares me. It scares me more than anything that has ever scared me. I grab on to it—and scream. . . Even as her power sears through me, scalding me from the inside, I pull hard.” Lia’s magic is able to overcome Ondine, and Ondine disappears. The scene is described over two pages.
  • Lia releases Ondine’s power into the sea. Lia’s “body tingles with burning ice as the magic picks up speed, cycloning through my chest, down my arms, and out my palms. I crash to my knees as all flows out of me and disappears beneath the waves.”

Spiritual Content

  • Ondine takes Lia to “a sacred space. . . a place where magic itself is worshiped.”

Pirates, HO!

Swashbuckling pirates sail the seas, braving storms, battles—and other pirates! From the first mate down to the cabin boy, they are rascals through and through.

But at night, by the light of the moon, they tell each other ghost stories. . . and guess who ends up being scared?

Pirates, HO! is a fun story that shows stereotypical pirates who want to find gold. “There’s Peg-Leg Tom and Angus Black, Dreadful Nell, and One-Eyed Jack. A thieving, lying, rascally crew, the worst you’ve heard of us is true. . .” In addition, one of the pirates has a tattoo of a ship on his chest. Even though the pirates themselves are not unique, the end of the book contains a humorous surprise. Although the pirates are brave, ghost stories make them afraid. Young readers will relate to the pirates who are afraid of the dark and they will giggle when the pirates hide in their beds.

The picture book’s illustrations use bold colors and cartoonish pirates that have lots of fun details such as a scared pelican listening to the pirate’s ghost story. Some of the illustrations use humor. For example, when the pirates are chasing another boat, two people ski behind the ship. Each page has 1 to 3 sentences. The text uses rhyming and pirate words that will capture readers’ attention and make Pirates, HO! an excellent book to read aloud.

Parents looking for a fun book that young readers will want to read repeatedly should add Pirates, HO! to their reading collection! Even though the story is full of scowling pirates, kids will fall in love with the motley crew. But be ready for readers to begin talking like a pirate. The pirates say, “We shout, ‘Avast!’ We cry, ‘Ahoy!'” If you’re looking for more pirate action, you may also want to read All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The pirates tie a man up with rope. The man is walking the plank. “Our swords are steel and our hearts are stone as we send our foes to Davy Jones. We are pirates, pirates, ho!”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The pirates tell ghost stories. “Now hear of a captain who sold his soul for the glitter of jewels and the gleam of gold.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Deep Water

Twelve-year-old Julie Sims is still reeling from her parents’ separation and from being moved to a different city. On the other hand, she is looking forward to spending the summer with her father and helping him with his diving business. However, Julie soon finds out that her father hasn’t weathered the divorce well and his business is about to fail. When a rich client agrees to pay an extreme amount to go on a dive, Julie knows her father will have to say yes because he desperately needs the money.

When Julie’s father falls ill miles off the coast of Alabama, Julie knows she must guide the client and his reckless son, Shane, into the depths of the ocean. Both the son and father ignore Julie’s instructions during the dive. Julie realizes she’s in over her head, but it’s too late to avoid danger. When the anchor loses its grip, the boat floats away making it impossible for the scuba divers to locate it. Stranded in the middle of the ocean, Julie just hopes someone will find them before it’s too late. Can Julie keep everyone alive until help comes, or will they all sink to the bottom of the ocean?

Julie’s story focuses on survival and jumps into action right from the start. Deep Water is not a character-driven story but instead centers around Julie’s desire to survive and her conflicting emotions about Shane. Shane’s father is killed by a shark which makes the two teens realize that they must work together. As Julie gets to know Shane, she realizes that Shane’s bratty behavior is caused by the deep hurt he is hiding. Within this survival story, both Julie and Shane’s family dynamics are explored, adding another interesting element to the story.

Key’s love and respect for the ocean shine through the entire story. Even though Julie faces sharks, freezing waters, and other dangers, she doesn’t lose her love of the ocean. Deep Water is a suspenseful survival story that doesn’t rely on typical events. Instead, the story weaves unique elements to create an entertaining tale that readers will have a hard time putting down. The ending is predictable and the characters are not well developed, the story’s action and suspense will still entertain survival story fans. The Raft by S.A. Bodeen and Adrift by Paul Griffin will also be good for any readers who enjoy ocean-themed survival stories.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Shane yells at Julie, she “spun around and punched him in the face with all my fear and anger.”
  • Julie thinks about a shark story her dad told her. The sharks “often tore into each other by mistake. He saw one of the sharks with its stomach completely ripped out, still feeding for another few minutes until the life suddenly left it.” The other sharks “ripped it up even more and ate it.”
  • While stranded in the middle of the ocean, Mr. Jordan begins to thrash about. “He began lifting his arm from the water repeatedly, plunging the knife blade down at his imaginary sharks.” When Julie and Shane realize they can’t help him, they let go of Mr. Jordan. It is implied that the sharks kill Mr. Jordan.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Julie mentions that her mom takes anxiety medication.

Language

  • Someone calls Julie’s dad a jackass.
  • When Shane realizes his dad has the bends, he says, “We’re so screwed.”
  • Someone refers to another person as a jerk four times. For example, Julie tells Shane, “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to be nice to people. Why would you want to be a jerk?”
  • “God” is used as an exclamation twice. “Oh my God” is used as an exclamation once.
  • Julie tells Shane his dad is an idiot.
  • Crap is used eight times. For example, when Shane loses sight of a shark, he yells, “Where’s that one going? Crap! Where’s he going?”
  • “Holy crap” is used three times. For example, Shane sees a waterspout heading for him and Julie and says, “holy crap!”
  • When Shane is snarky, Julie tells him, “don’t be a smart ass.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Rocket Says Clean Up!

When Rocket goes on vacation to see her grandparents, they spend the day at the beach. Rocket discovers that plastic is taking over the ocean. When Rocket finds a baby turtle wrapped up in plastic, she’s determined to do something. Rocket wants everyone to take action! Rocket’s passion to make the beach a safer place for wildlife inspires the people around her. Together, can they entice the sea creatures to return?

Rocket’s desire to clean up the beach is inspiring and highlights the need for a community to come together to pick up the trash. The illustrations show an explosion of plastic all over the sand, in the water, and wrapped around a tiny turtle. Even though some of the illustrations are humorous, the story still focuses on how trash can be dangerous to sea life. The story even shows how trash can be repurposed to make art. The conclusion has a happy ending which shows the sea turtle being released back into the ocean.

Rocket is a relatable character who isn’t afraid to speak up about the dangers of trash. With the help of her grandparents, Rocket brings a community together and makes the beach trash-free. In Rocket Says Look Up, the story and lesson were completely integrated. However, in Rocket Says Clean Up, the message takes center stage at the expense of a well-developed plot. Despite this, readers will enjoy the story, which ends with a list of ways that readers can reduce waste.

Rocket Says Clean Up is an engaging picture book with bright illustrations that are full of fun details. For example, Rocket buries her brother in sand and then builds a sandcastle on top of him. The people at the beach are a diverse group that includes people from different races as well as different body types. The large cast of people in the illustrations helps reinforce the concept that it takes a community to clean up a beach.

Even though Rocket Says Clean Up is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for a child to read it for the first time independently. Most pages contain 1-4 sentences, but some of the sentences are complex. Rocket gives a few interesting facts about where trash comes from, and how it hurts animals. These interesting facts appear in quote boxes and begin with, “Did you know. . .”

Rocket, who is African American, looks up to Imani Wilmot, who created the first female surf competition in Jamaica. Rocket’s experiences will encourage readers to learn more about protecting the ocean. The bright, fun illustrations will capture readers’ attention, and Rocket’s enthusiasm will keep readers interested until the last page. Readers who would like to learn more about the ocean should add Shark Lady by Jess Keating and Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Shark Girl

On a sunny day in June, at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything — absolutely everything — changed. Now she’s counting down the days until she returns to school with her fake arm, where she knows kids will whisper, “That’s her — that’s Shark Girl.”

In the meantime, there are only questions: Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life? In this striking first novel, Kelly Bingham uses poems, letters, telephone conversations, and newspaper clippings to look unflinchingly at what it’s like to lose part of yourself — and to summon the courage it takes to find yourself again.

Part of Jane’s story is told in prose, which allows the text to focus on her conflicting emotions. One reason Jane feels despair at losing her arm is that she can no longer create art, which is one of her passions. During Jane’s stay in the hospital, several people encourage Jane to allow herself to be upset. Jane’s uncle says, “If I were in your shoes, I’d be crying too. . .You have a lot to cry about, and don’t ever apologize for it. It’s part of healing. The tears wash away the pain.”

Many people who have lost a limb write to Jane, telling her about their ordeals and how life does get better. Others want Jane’s advice when it comes to their own tragedies. The letters, which are scattered throughout the book, help reinforce the idea that people can lead happy lives even after a life-altering tragedy.

Anyone who has ever had to overcome an obstacle will relate to Jane, who is struggling to learn how to deal with the loss of her arm. The story is broken into three parts. Part one focuses on Jane’s hospital stay, where she befriends another patient. Part two shows Jane’s difficulty when she gets home. At first, Jane doesn’t want to leave the house because people stare at her. She also doesn’t help with chores anymore. Part three shows how difficult it is for Jane to return to school.

Shark Girl is an easy-to-read story that shows Jane’s struggle to thrive with only one arm. At the beginning of her journey, she sometimes wishes she would have died. However, with the help of others, Jane beings to relearn how to do simple things like cooking an omelet or putting on a bra. By the end of the book, Jane is glad she survived and hopes to use her experience to help others.

Because Shark Girl focuses on Jane’s recovery, much of the story details Jane’s inner thoughts and her conversations with others. Because Jane’s story begins after the shark attack, there is little suspense or action. However, if you’re struggling to overcome grief, Shark Girl would be an encouraging story that explores how to deal with loss and grief.

Sexual Content

  • Jane daydreams about Max taking her to an aquarium. “He’ll kiss me / while giant red crabs / scale pink coral.”

Violence

  • A shark bites Jane’s arm off, but the accident is not described in detail.
  • When Jane gets upset at a friend, she thinks, “Maybe I could make a noose / and hang her.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • After losing her arm, Jane is given medication for the pain. “Tubes spiral around my bed. . . The pain medication leaves me floating.”

Language

  • Profanity is used occasionally. Profanity includes ass, bastard, crap, damn, hell, pissy, and shit.
  • Lord, God, and Oh My God are used as exclamations rarely.
  • When Jane complains about all of the cards she has received, her mother says, “Jane, for God’s sake, just appreciate it.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Jane wonders why she was bitten by a shark. “Don’t even tell me / God has a reason / for making Justin suffer / or me, either.”
  • Jane’s uncle tells Jane about his friend who was disfigured by a burn. He says, “He never lost his faith in God. Never questioned why that happened to him and not to someone else. . . I’ve been asking God about this, Jane. And I think as bad as it is, we have to remember how close you came to death. . . I believe in my heart that God saved your life that day.”

 

 

 

The Great Shark Escape

Mrs. Frizzle is teaching her students about ocean life, and her students must complete a report about an ocean creature. Arnold isn’t too happy about the assignment because ocean creatures can be dangerous. When Mrs. Frizzle announces a field trip to an aquarium, Arnold is relieved that the class will not be doing anything daring. But when the class arrives at the aquarium, they discover it had to close because of a flood.

Despite this, Mrs. Frizzle is determined to teach the students about the ocean, so the magic school bus takes the class into the ocean. They end up face-to-face with all kinds of sharks, from great whites to goblin sharks. Then, when things get scary and the class is really swimming in trouble, you’d never guess who helps the class make the great shark escape!

The Great Shark Escape is an exciting story with plenty of suspense. Arnold tells the story and his dislike of danger adds some humor. Black and white illustrations appear every 1 to 3 pages. The illustrations show Mrs. Frizzle’s students, who are a diverse group, under the sea, which will help readers understand the plot. In addition, a sketch of each shark allows the readers to see the differences between each shark.

Shark-loving kids will enjoy a trip into the open ocean to learn all about sharks. Throughout the story, Mrs. Fizzle’s students’ reports appear on notebook paper. Each section is about one paragraph long and contains information about specific sharks as well as general shark information. Readers will learn about a huge variety of ocean life including the whale shark, the great white shark, the angel shark, the goblin shark, and the hammerhead shark. Even though all of the shark information is interesting, some readers may have a hard time jumping from the story to the shark facts and back.

The high-interest topic and the fun format of The Great Shark Escape will appeal to readers. While Arnold’s narration shows his fear of sharks, in the end, Arnold’s bravery allows him to save the class. The Great Shark Escape uses an entertaining story to teach about sharks. Because each book in The Magic School Bus focuses on different topics, readers will never get bored with the series. Shark-loving readers can learn more about sharks by reading Shark Lady by Jess Keating.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The magic school bus narrowly avoids getting eaten by a shark.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The magic school bus transforms into a helicopter and then a submarine. “Not only was the sub going down deep, it was shrinking and so were we! Now the sub was only two feet long.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark

Mrs. Clam loses her pearl and Mr. Fish promises he will find it. But when he goes looking for the pearl, he can’t find it in “the busy bottom land.” Then he hears a voice whisper, “It’s further out to sea!”

Mr. Fish is nervous about swimming deeper and his “heart flit-fluttered.” Even though he is scared of the dark, Mr. Fish keeps looking for the pearl. Mr. Fish has to go deeper and deeper into the sea. Miss Shimmer encourages Mr. Fish and “they swam down together. Holding fin to fin.” A lantern fish lights the way, and Mr. Fish finds the pearl.

The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark is a super cute story about friendship and fear of the dark. Young readers will relate to Mr. Fish, who wants to help his friend but is afraid of going into the dark part of the ocean. Throughout the story, Mr. Fish repeatedly says, “I’m fast as a sail ship, I’m strong as a shark, I’m smart as a dolphin, but I’m scared of the dark.” Readers will learn that there is no reason to be afraid of the dark, but that having a friend near will help you overcome your fear. In the end, Mr. Fish learns, “The ocean is wide, and the ocean is deep, but friends help friends—that’s a promise we keep.”

While Mr. Fish is looking for the pearl, he hears a voice whispering. In the end, Mr. Fish finds out that the voice belonged to Miss Shimmer. Even though Miss Shimmer’s words were encouraging, parents may want to talk to their child about the dangers of following a voice.

The rhyming couplets and repeating words make The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark a fun book to read aloud. Each page has 2 to 4 sentences printed in large text and set against a solid background which makes it easy to read. The illustrations perfectly capture the events of the story and show Mr. Fish’s worried expression. Each full-color illustration shows the diverse creatures that are abundant in the ocean. All the illustrations are beautifully colored in shades of blue with pops of color, and many of the illustrations are humorous.

The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark takes a relevant topic and combines it with wonderful sea-creatures that will capture readers’ attention. Young readers will fall in love with Mr. Fish and his friends. The Pout-Pout Fish series will capture readers’ hearts. This is definitely a book series that readers will want to read again and again, both because of the relatable topics and the pictures.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Mayflower

Myths! Lies! Secrets! Smash the stories behind famous moments in history and expose the hidden truth. Perfect for fans of I Survived and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.

In 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and made friends with Wampanoag people who gave them corn. RIGHT?

WRONG! It was months before the Pilgrims met any Wampanoag people, and nobody gave anybody corn that day.

Did you know that the pilgrims didn’t go straight from England to Plymouth? No, they made a stop along the way—and almost stayed forever! Did you know there was a second ship, called the Speedwell, that was too leaky to make the trip? No joke. And just wait until you learn the truth about Plymouth Rock.

Messner makes learning about history fun. The Mayflower is written in a factual, conversational tone that explains how some of America’s myths started. The Mayflower explains to readers what a primary source is, as well as discusses why “a primary source isn’t necessarily the truth of what happened; it’s an account of what the writer noticed and believed at the time.” The book contains many passages from primary sources and also translates some passages that are difficult to understand.

The Mayflower doesn’t recite a bunch of boring facts. Instead, readers will learn about the events and their significance. For example, the book explains what the Mayflower Compact was: “It established the idea that people should agree on laws together. It also laid the foundation for the separation of church and state—the idea that the government shouldn’t be run by religious leaders and shouldn’t tell anyone how to worship.”

The book’s unique layout will appeal to readers because it includes some graphic novel panels plus lots of illustrations, maps, sidebars, and historical pictures. Almost every page has a graphic element and many of the black and white illustrations are humorous. The illustrations will allow readers to visualize the people, places, and events while the abundant graphics break the text into manageable parts and help readers stay interested in each story.

The Mayflower starts with who the Pilgrims were and why they wanted to leave England. The book also includes information about traveling to the New World, the harsh conditions of settling an untamed land, and the Pilgrims’ treatment of the Wampanoag’s people. The Mayflower is a must-read book because it shows American history in a new light and explains how many of America’s myths became part of our history.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • John Bilington was a troublemaker who “killed another settler and ended up being sentenced to death by hanging.”
  • Dermer and a group of men went to America to explore. “They were attacked by Nauset men. Most of Dermer’s men were killed. Dermer was wounded but escaped to Virginia.”
  • A group of Pilgrims attacked the Natives and killed “two of the community’s leaders.”
  • After the Pequot people attacked an English trading vessel, “They set the village on fire and killed anyone who tried to escape. About seven hundred Pequot men, women, and children were killed.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • While sailing to the new world, everyone, including the kids, drank beer. “But this was different from the kind of beer that only adults drink today. The Pilgrims called it ‘small beer,’ and it had less alcohol.”
  • On Christmas Day 1620, some of the men drank beer.

Language

  • A man who enslaved some of the Natives is called a jerk.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The King of England said he had “permission” to give away land in Virginia because the Pope said, “Christian people could go into the lands of any non-Christian; take the land and resources and enslave the people who lived there. People who weren’t Christians weren’t looked at as human beings.”
  • Christians believed that taking non-Christians’ lands was acceptable because “God wanted the Pilgrims to convert the Native people, and that could only happen if they lived in the same place.”
  • On the trip, one sailor died. One of the passengers wrote, “But it pleased God before they came half over the sea, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard.”
  • The pilgrims found and stole the Wampanoag’s stored corn. One man said the corn was, “God’s good providence.”
  • A Pilgrim said that Tisquantum “had been sent by God.”
  • The Pilgrims didn’t have celebrations, but they had days “spent in prayer.”
  • After the Pilgrims killed everyone in a Pequot village, the English “gave praise thereof to God.”

 

The Vanishing Deep

Seventeen-year-old Tempe was born into a world of water. When the Great Waves destroyed her planet five hundred years ago, its people had to learn to survive living on the water. However, the ruins of the cities lay below. Tempe dives daily, scavenging the ruins of a bygone era, searching for anything of value to trade for Notes. It isn’t food or clothing that she wants to buy, but her dead sister’s life.

For a price, the research facility on the island of Palindromena will revive the dearly departed for twenty-four hours before returning them to death. It isn’t a heartfelt reunion that Tempe is after; she wants answers. Elysea died keeping a terrible secret, one that has ignited an unquenchable fury in Tempe. Tempe knows that her beloved sister was responsible for the death of their parents; now she wants to know why.

But once revived, Elysea has other plans. She doesn’t want to spend her last day in a cold room accounting for a crime she insists she didn’t commit. Instead, Elysea wants her freedom and a final glimpse at the life that was stolen from her. She persuades Tempe to break her out of the facility, and they embark on a dangerous journey to discover the truth about their parents’ death. Every step of the way they are pursued by Lor, a Palindromena employee desperate to find them before Elysea’s twenty-four hours are up—and before the secret behind the revival process and the true cost of restored life is revealed.

The Vanishing Deep takes the reader on a trip into the future, where people live on metal structures on the ocean. The Old World was destroyed due to unsustainable practices because people “always [are] wanting more than we have.” Scholte’s world-building is detailed, realistic, and beautiful. Even though the story shows the importance of caring for the earth, the message is integrated into the story and never feels like a lecture.

The story jumps back and forth between Tempe’s and Lor’s points of view, which helps build suspense. Both characters are suffering from grief, but they each react to the loss of a loved one in different ways. Lor hides from the world and forces himself to pay penance to his friend’s death. On the other hand, Tempe is so shrouded in anger that she hasn’t grieved for her lost sister. By the end of the story, both Lor and Tempe realize they need to deal with their grief. Tempe realizes “anger had been my anchor. It had tethered me to the darkness in the world, to the things I couldn’t control. I had hidden from my grief. It was easier that way. But it wasn’t healthy.”

The Vanishing Deep is a suspenseful story that propels readers into an imaginative world that makes one consider questions about death. Tempe and Lor’s different perspectives show how grief can overtake someone’s life in unexpected ways. The conclusion contains several surprises but also leaves many unanswered questions. Despite this, readers will enjoy the journey through the New World, where people can resurrect a loved one. The story leaves off on a positive note by reinforcing the need for people to go through the grieving process, which includes learning to fully live their lives even though they’ve suffered an incredible loss.

Sexual Content

  • Lor and Tempe kiss. Tempe’s “skin blistered at the touch of him. I wasn’t sure who had ignited who. He tasted like the sea, smoke, and brine. His hand snaked up and into my hair. I breathed him in between kisses, needing him, needing this, needing life.”

Violence

  • When Tempe was younger, kids “would circle me, throw things in my hair and chant, water witch, water witch, water witch, as they ran around me. They wanted protection from the Gods below. Protection from me.”
  • When Tempe and her sister escape Palindromena, Lor goes after them. When Elysea sees him, she yells, “He’s already killed me once! Don’t let him do it again!” The barkeeper “tossed the knife at [Lor]. . . The knife dug into the counter, scratching [Lor’s] arm and pinning [Lor’s] shirt to the wood.” Lor is uninjured.
  • When Lor boards Tempe’s boat, she “Dove toward him, my arms connecting around his middle. . . He slipped on the wet metal hull, and we fell to the deck. . .He had hit his head against the mast when he fell. He was out cold.” Tempe ties Lor to the boat.
  • Lor and his best friend, Calen, were climbing a cliff when they fell into the sea. Lor died and his mother “couldn’t say goodbye to her son, so she killed Calen so Lor could live on.”
  • Tempe, Elysea, and another boy go to an underwater temple where they are ambushed. “Something silver shot past [Tempe’s] shoulder, tearing through my diving skin and into my flesh. I gasped in pain.”
  • While in the temple, a rebel named Qera grabs Tempe. Qera “grabbed my leg and twisted the flipper off. . . I reached for Qera’s wrist. She elbowed me in the face, attempting to tear my dome loose.” The fight is described over five pages. No one is seriously injured.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • After diving, Tempe takes a “recompression pill to neutralize the bubbles that were currently forming in my muscles and bloodstream.”
  • When Tempe goes on land, she is given “two opaque pills” to help with the stationary sickness.
  • There is the occasional mention of drinking rager—“a spirit made from fermented seaweed that hit you in the face like the odor of a month-dead familfish.”
  • A man goes to the bar and asks for a rager. He says, “Thanks, man. Liquid courage.”
  • While at a celebration, Lor drinks rager. Lor takes “a tentative sip. The fermented drink burned my tongue and made my eyes water.” Lor gets drunk.
  • The day before Tempe’s birthday, she goes to a bar with her friend. The worker gives Tempe’s friend “a shot of rager and a half a shot for me.”

Language

  • Profanity is used occasionally. Profanity includes ass, bastard, crap, damn, piss, and shit.
  • “Gods below” and “Gods” are both used as an exclamation occasionally.
  • Fuck is used once.

Supernatural

  • Scientists found a way to bring people back to life for 24 hours. Some thought “bringing back the dead was against the Gods’ wishes. Both Old and New.”
  • When a person is revived, he or she is “intrinsically linked through the echolink, tethering to my heartbeat. If she died, I would too.”

 

Spiritual Content

  • The New Gods and the Old Gods are mentioned, but no specific information is given about them.
  • Several times, Tempe prays to the Gods below. For example, she drops stones into the ocean “saying a prayer to the Gods below who took souls from boats in a storm and the air from the lungs of divers.”
  • In the past, “the Old World believed in the Gods above and followed the stars to journey across the land.”
  • Some people believe the “Old Gods had turned away from us and our selfishness.”
  • Tempe “doesn’t believe in luck; I believe in the Gods below and what they determined for my future. Why they had chosen to take my parents and my sister, I wasn’t sure.”
  • When Tempe goes to Palindromena, someone says, “Praise the Gods below for protecting our island.”
  • Tempe asks her sister about death, but her sister doesn’t remember anything. “Those who believed in the Gods below said you would be reunited with your loved ones in a realm beneath the sea. A realm where you could breathe underwater. And those who believed in the Old Gods said you would go to a place in the sky.”
  • When Tempe’s sister suddenly becomes unconscious, Tempe prays. “In all the times I’d prayed to the Gods below, they’d never listened. I begged that they would this time. Just this once.”
  • Lor wants to save Elysea’s life, but he’s not sure how. “For the first time in my life, I whispered words of prayer to the Gods below, not knowing if they existed, listened or cared. But wasn’t that how everyone prayed? With faith that they weren’t alone and no evidence to prove it?”

 

 

 

Fish Girl

Who is Fish Girl?

She lives in a tank in a boardwalk aquarium. She is the main attraction, though visitors never get more than a glimpse of her.

She has a tail. She can’t walk, but she can speak. She can make friends with Livia, an ordinary girl, and can yearn for a life that includes yoga and pizza. She can grow stronger and braver. With determination, a touch of magic, and the help of a loyal octopus, Fish Girl can do anything.

When Livia meets Fish Girl, she is determined to get to know her new friend. Due to Livia’s curiosity, Fish Girl learns the truth about her origins and the falsehoods that Neptune, her captor, has told. Livia’s friendship gives Fish Girl the inspiration and courage to go against Neptune’s rules.

Fish Girl’s journey comes to life in beautiful watercolor illustrations, drawn in blue hues. While most of the conversation appears in white quote bubbles, Fish Girl’s thoughts appear in square boxes, which helps readers distinguish the speakers. Each page has 6 or fewer sentences, which are written with easy-to-understand vocabulary.

This graphic novel beautifully portrays the power of friendship. When Fish Girl is in danger, the octopus helps protects her. In addition, with Livia’s help, Fish Girl realizes she has the power to free herself from her captor’s grasp. The amazing illustrations of Livia’s underwater home show an array of sea creatures. Fish Girl’s facial expressions will also help readers understand her emotions.

Fish Girl will appeal to many readers because of the high interest in mermaids. The themes of friendship and freedom will also resonate with readers. Fish Girl’s compelling story, coupled with beautiful illustrations, makes Fish Girl a wonderful book to read. The simple plot and vocabulary will appeal to reluctant readers and the heartwarming conclusion will put a smile on readers’ faces.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Fish Girl goes to the boardwalk. A man begins to follow her, and he grabs her hair. He says, “You’ve got nice hair. . . C’mon. Let’s get out of here—” Fish Girl breaks free and runs.
  • A fisherman gets angry with Fish Girl and begins yelling at her. Her octopus friend grows larger and holds the man so Fish Girl can escape.
  • Fish Girl asks the ocean to destroy the aquarium. In response, the octopus grabs ahold of the building and pulls it towards the sea. “The ocean rises up, and sets the sea creatures free.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When Fish Girl is in danger, the octopus grows into a giant like the kraken.
  • Fish Girl asks the ocean to destroy the aquarium in order to set the sea creatures free. After it’s destroyed, she says, “It’s dying down. You listened. Thank you, ocean.”

Spiritual Content

  • The fisherman who owns the aquarium pretends to be “Neptune, god of the seas and storms.”
  • The fisherman tells the Fish Girl that “the muses were lovely. They had the form of women and their voices were sweeter than anything anyone could ever dream of.”

 

Emerge

Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she’s never lived in the ocean. War has ravaged the seven seas ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped the Mer of their immortality. Lia has grown up in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he’s gorgeous in that cocky leather jacket sort of way and he makes her feel like there’s a school of fish swimming in her stomach, but getting involved with a human could put Lia’s entire community at risk.

So it’s for the best that he’s dating that new girl, right? That is until Lia finds out she isn’t the only one at school keeping a potentially deadly secret. And this new girl? Her eyes are dead set on Clay, who doesn’t realize the danger he’s in. If Lia hopes to save him, she’ll have to get closer to Clay. Lia’s parents would totally flip if they found out she was falling for a human boy, but the more time she spends with him, the harder it is to deny her feelings. After making a horrible mistake, Lia decides to risk everything to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.

Lia and her family are descendants of the Little Mermaid, which gives the story an interesting connection to the fairy tale. In addition, one of the Mermaids is a siren and her ability to manipulate will leave readers on edge. Much of the dramatic tension in this story is saved for the multi-chapter conclusion that quickly builds suspense and ends with a surprising twist.

The Mers living on land rarely return to the ocean, which keeps the story one-dimensional. While Lia’s desire to do what is right is admirable, her inner struggle is predictable and tedious. Lia fantasizes about kissing Clay but knows it is forbidden for a Mer to love a human. While the story doesn’t describe anyone having sex, there is abundant talk about sex. The Mer world is accepting of promiscuous behavior both in and out of marriage as well as having sexual partners of both sexes.

Emerge starts out strong with many cute sayings from the Mer world. Unfortunately, Emerge uses teenage angst, a love triangle, and ancient potions to create a typical teen romance. The narrator, Lia, is the only well-developed character, but her inner dialogue is tedious. Readers who are looking for an interesting Mermaid story will find Emerge lacking in originality and over-focused on sexual desire. Readers looking for a unique, memorable story may want to leave Emerge on the shelf.

Sexual Content

  • Lia is upset when Clay and Mel, another Mermaid, begin dating. While shopping, “Mel gives me [Lia] a curious look before wrapping her arms around Clay’s neck and kissing him right there in the middle of the store, her hands tangling in his hair.”
  • Because Mermaids used to be immortal, “fidelity was never a requirement” and Mermaids would “roam periodically” and then return to their mate.
  • Lia’s twin sisters have “both had human hookups at parties.”
  • Lia often thinks about kissing Clay. At one point, Lia wonders if she should have dated Clay. “I could have gotten in a few glorious weeks of kissing Clay. What would it be like to be able to hold onto those strong arms . . . kiss that full smirky mouth?”
  • Mermaids need to learn how to make their tails turn into and stay legs. Originally, merfolk only needed legs when they had sex. When a young girl first gets her legs, someone says, “What you need to do is embrace your natural impulses: You don’t need to act on those urges—thinking about them will be enough.” Someone else says, “So, all you have to do is think slutty thoughts, and your legs will stay firmly in place.” The conversation goes on for three pages.
  • After talking to Clay, Lia says her sisters, “hook up with new guys at practically every party, and I’ve never had a real kiss.” As they continue to talk about relationships, Clay says, “When I’m kissing Mel, all I can think about is kissing her more.”
  • Clay’s girlfriend sirens him. Then, she “leans up to kiss him. Hunger gleams in his eyes. . . whatever he’s feeling right now, she’s forcing it on him.”
  • Lia walks Clay home. She “wants to run [her] fingers over the skin, explore his rich mahogany hairline. . . I wanted to know what it would be like to feel him, to taste him.” The scene is described over two pages.
  • While shopping for a bra, two girls talk about what type of bras and underwear their boyfriends like them to wear.
  • Lia’s twin sisters tell her that she can have sex with an underclassman because, “we haven’t tapped anyone younger than us, so the junior class is all yours.”
  • Lia goes to Clay’s house to work on a school project. “A slow kiss covers my shoulder, his lips firm and cool against my heated skin. . . He plants a trail of kisses across my shoulder, toward my throat. As soon as his lips make contact with my neck, a shudder runs through me and I want to grab him to me and hold him there forever.”
  • Lia’s cousin is conflicted because she is attracted to other girls. Lia thinks, “Before the curse, homosexuality. . . was accepted in Mer culture. Most Mermaids mated with Mermen, but Mermaids mating with Mermaids wasn’t uncommon, and neither was Mermen with Mermen.”
  • Lia is preparing to walk away from Clay and never see him again. Her “eyes meet his open, questioning ones, and I stop thinking. Grabbing two fistfuls of his shirt, I yank him up close to me. . . crash my lips against his. . . Then his lips part and I’m tasting him. . . My world becomes a whirlwind of supple lips and exploring tongue, of light stubble and sweet, gasping breath.” The scene is described over a page.

Violence

  • Lia’s family are descendants of the Little Mermaid, so the fairytale is retold. However, in this version, the Mermaids were cursed because of the Little Mermaid’s actions. “Merkind blamed her father the king for her mistake and executed him, throwing our entire society into a state of anarchy and war that’s lasted ever since.”
  • In the past, when a Mermaid “sirened” a man, which put him under a spell, the man was executed because “they couldn’t risk him telling other humans what had happened to him.”
  • Lia researches the history of sirens. One siren “ordered a man under her spell to gouge out his own eyes while she watched in amusement. . . a Mermaid who heard a bard singing on a ship off the coast of Tudor England and used his own song to siren him. . . she commanded him to sing and dance for her until he died of exhaustion.”
  • Before sirening was made illegal in the Mer World, sailors attacked a Mermaid, “in her anger, she screamed for their deaths, and each one of them jumped off the island’s cliff to a watery grave.”
  • A Merman commits suicide because “he couldn’t take the constant reminder that he was aging. That he wasn’t immortal.”
  • In a violent and deadly multi-chapter conclusion, Clay is kidnapped and Lia goes in search of him. Lia goes under the ocean and into Mer territory where she sees dead Mermen. “Permanent agony contorts each lifeless face. . . Bodies battered and bloody, limbs twisted at odd angles, fins hacked off.”
  • When Lia is looking for Clay, “someone grabs me from behind. . . I’m breathing in whatever noxious potion is on the kelp, and I’m growing dizzier by the second.” When Lia awakens, she sees Clay “bound and bloody.”
  • Lia’s captor “drags the tip of the dagger down [her] cheek and neck with just enough pressure that it must leave a line of raised, red skin in its wake.”
  • Lia and her captors fight. “With his other hand, he grabs the top of my fin and folds my tail back up into that painful bent position. I lash out with my arms, twist my torso around so I can hit him with my fists, and try to free my tail, but he stands firm against my attack.”
  • One of Clay’s captors stabs him in the stomach with a knife. Lia’s “eyes fly open in time to see Melusine twist the dagger deeper into Clay’s stomach. . . And now he’s screaming. Covering the wound with his hands.”
  • Lia’s captor tries to kill her. “His cold hands tighten around my throat, pressing both my windpipe and my gills shut. I can’t breathe.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Mermaids started living on land, there were “a few bar fights” because the Mer “weren’t used to the effects of liquor.”
  • Clay’s ex-girlfriend slips something into his drink. Lia finds Clay. “He convulses, his limbs smacking against the unforgiving pavement. Sweat pours down his face.” Later, Lia discovers Clay was given a love potion. “It would have performed its office successfully if the boy weren’t already under another form of Mer magic.”

Language

  • Damn is used three times. For example, when Lia’s cousin gets her legs, her cousin says, “Those are some damn sexy legs you got there, Aims.”
  • OMG and God are both used as an exclamation once.
  • Bitch is used 4 times. For example, a Mermaid asks, “Father, will it disrupt the ritual if I kill this meddling bitch before I take care of the human?”
  • Clay loses his balance and falls on “his grabbable ass.”
  • Someone tells Lia she will kiss Clay. Lia says, “Like hell I will!”
  • Pissed is used once.

Supernatural

  • Clay’s girlfriend is a siren. She uses her song to control him. When she sings, Clay’s “eyes are glazed over, like he’s lost in some dream world. The spark of intelligence, of awareness, is gone.”
  • Clay is kidnapped. Lia finds “ritualistic symbols line the walls in a translucent, sickly blue ink.” Later, she finds out that the symbols were part of a spell.
  • In order to save Clay’s life, a Merman gives him a potion. “All the blood smeared on Clay’s body slides across his skin and back into the wound! Even the red staining his boxers seeps upward along the fabric, back onto his torso, and into his body.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

DC Super Friends: Shark Attack!

When a space probe falls into the ocean, Batman and Aquaman try to recover it, but the villain Black Manta gets there first. Black Manta uses a device to control the sharks. Aquaman tries to talk to the sharks, but the device stops him. While a great white chases Batman, Aquaman hides in the sea grass. Batman and Aquaman are able to save the day and get the device. The Coast Guard fish both the space probe and Black Manta out of the ocean.

Superhero fans will cheer for Batman and Aquaman when they defeat the Black Manta. Each full-page illustration shows the action, which includes being chased by sharks. Even though Black Manta is the villain, Aquaman asks the sharks not to bite him. Even though the reader knows that Batman and Aquaman will be victorious, they will enjoy the fast-paced action as they learn a few shark facts.

Young readers will need help reading Shark Attack! The story uses basic vocabulary and short sentences, but is intended for children who are familiar with words on sight and can sound out new words. Each page has 1 to 3 simple sentences that are printed with large text. The action is illustrated with large pictures which often include various types of sharks. As the superheroes battle the Black Manta, the violence consists of the sharks bumping but never biting.

Shark Attack! uses familiar characters and full-page illustrations to engage young readers. The story is intended for preschool through kindergarten readers, but older readers will also enjoy the story. The plot is easy to understand and the colorful illustrations will help readers understand the story’s events. Superhero and shark-loving readers will enjoy seeing Batman and Aquaman take a bite out of crime in Shark Attack!

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • “The great white bumps Batman. It circles back to take a bite.”
  • The great white also bumps the Blank Manta.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Snail and the Whale

When a tiny snail wants to travel to far-off lands, he makes a “silvery trail that looped and curled” asking for a ride. The snail meets a humpback whale and the two travel together to far-off lands. It’s a dream come true for the snail, who has never left home before. But when the whale swims too close to shore, will the snail be able to save his new friend?

The Snail and the Whale is a wonderful adventure about two unlikely friends who connect over their desire to travel. The vibrant, full-page illustrations use hues of blue to paint the sea, and splashes of color to create the different “far-off lands.” The two friends visit the penguins that live in “towering icebergs,” monkeys who live where there are “fiery mountains and golden sands,” and other wild places.

The beginning of the story focuses on the beauty of nature. However, the whale ends up going too close to the shore where “there are speedboats, running a race, zigging and zooming all over the place.” The confused whale ends up on the shore. Even though the snail “felt helpless and terribly small,” she didn’t give up. Instead, she crawls into a classroom and makes “a silvery trail saying, ‘Save the Whale.’” With the help of the town, the whale and the sail make it safely back to sea.

The Snail and the Whale is an engaging story that is perfect to read aloud. With rhyming lines, alliteration, and descriptive imagery, readers will want to hear the story again and again. Each two-page spread has 2 to 10 lyrical lines that are intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read independently.

Adventure-loving readers will enjoy traveling with the whale and the snail. The satisfying conclusion highlights the love of travel as well as how two friends can help each other. The “snail with an itchy foot” takes the reader on a wonderful adventure, full of beautifully detailed illustrations. Ocean-lovers will also enjoy Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea by Jan Peck.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Who Was Ferdinand Magellan?

Ferdinand Magellan lived during the 1480s. His family lived in Portugal. When Ferdinand turned twelve, he went to the capital to be a page. He loved to go to the harbor and watch the ships come and go. Even though Ferdinand was poor, he dreamed of one day having his own ship.

In order to import spices, Portugal wanted to find a way to travel to India without going through Africa. When the Arab navy attacked, Ferdinand volunteered to go to war. He had hoped to gain enough wealth to become a ship’s captain. Because Ferdinand was unpopular though, no one would help him buy a ship. The King of Portugal rejected Ferdinand’s pleas for funding so Ferdinand decided to leave his country.

In desperation, Ferdinand went to Spain to seek funding. Spain’s king funded Ferdinand’s travels and with four ships, Ferdinand set out to find el paso, a straight that would allow Spain to travel to India over water. During the long trip, Ferdinand faced many hardships, including his men trying to mutiny several times. In the end, Ferdinand died in a strange land. However, his ship became the first one to circle the globe.

Ferdinand’s determination to become a ship’s captain is inspiring. Despite many obstacles, he never gives up on his dream. Because of his gruff manner, the other ships’ captains threatened to mutiny, but Ferdinand used his brains to stop them. Even though Ferdinand was a devout Christian and a bold explorer, many people disliked him because he kept his distance, and was a “gruff man who never seemed to laugh.”

Who Was Ferdinand Magellan? teaches about life in the 1400s and the conflict over the spice trade route. The book has an easy-to-read format with large font. Large black-and-white illustrations appear on almost every page. Many of the illustrations show maps, people, and objects from the time period. For example, there is an illustration of a knight’s armor, a crossbow, and a shield. Scattered throughout the book are one-page infographics that tell more about the time period, such as giving information about ships of the day. The end of the book includes a timeline of Magellan’s life and a timeline of the world.

Even though Magellan was not a likable person, his journey will inspire readers to persevere. Who Was Ferdinand Magellan? would be a good book to use for research. Additionally, anyone who wants to learn more about the time period will enjoy reading about Magellan’s journey. The wide array of illustrations and the short chapters will help keep readers’ interest until the very end.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The Portuguese and Arabs fought for control of the spice trade. When Ferdinand went to war, “he was wounded so badly that he was in a hospital for close to five months.” When he went back to war, “a lance wounded him in the knee.”
  • Two Spanish captains try to mutiny. “One of Ferdinand’s men grabbed him [a captain] and stabbed him to death. As the rebel captain’s body was hung up for all to see, the crew of the Victoria surrendered.” Both captains were beheaded.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One reason spices were so important is that they were used to make beer.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Ferdinand had a deep faith in God and “believed his destiny was to go to sea.”
  • Ferdinand went to war because “he believed God would protect him.”
  • As Ferdinand looked for el paso, he was convinced that “God would help him locate it. He declared it was just a little farther south. Then he prayed silently that it was true.”
  • When Ferdinand and his men thought they found the straight, they prayed.
  • For 98 days, the sailors were at sea. When they finally saw land, one sailor said, “Praise God, land! Land! Land!” All of the sailors prayed.
  • When Ferdinand and his men come to an island, the natives welcome them. Ferdinand “believed that it was his duty to bring God and Christianity to the natives. He felt driven to save souls and preach about Jesus.” Not all of the natives converted to Christianity so Ferdinand and his men attacked. The natives “knocked off his [Ferdinand’s] helmet with stones. Then a spear came out of nowhere and sliced into his face. . . He collapsed face down in the surf. So many natives fell upon him that he disappeared from sight.”
  • Ferdinand was an intolerant man. “His religious beliefs had to be everyone else’s beliefs.”

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