The Missing Prince

Will Treaty and his apprentice, Maddie, have been urgently summoned to Castle Araluen. When they arrive, they learn a shocking truth: the Prince of Gallica is missing—and the King of Gallica has asked for help. All reports suggest that the young prince has been taken prisoner by the dangerous and powerful Baron Joubert de Lassigny. King Duncan knows that sending troops to Gallica to rescue the prince could start a war, as could openly helping Gallica resolve internal conflict. But there’s another way to save the prince: the Ranger Corps.

Soon, Will and Maddie are on the road to rescue the missing prince, disguised as father and daughter jongleurs. Maddie will have to use her knife throwing skills to keep up her disguise, and her ranger’s apprentice training to complete the mission. But going undercover is dangerous—and the road presents its own hazards. Can she and Will use all of their talents to save the prince, or will the arrogant Baron uncover their plans and put their lives– and their kingdom– at risk?

Unlike the other books in the Ranger’s Apprentice Series, The Missing Prince is missing action. For most of the story, Will and Maddie are traveling to the castle where the Prince of Gallica is being held captive. Along the way, Will and Maddie face bandits which adds excitement to the story. However, their trip drags and when the two finally reach their destination, the book suddenly ends leaving the reader wondering what will happen in the next book, Escape from Falaise.

Will and Maddie are admirable characters who willingly face danger in an attempt to free the missing prince. However, the book’s slow start focuses more on the political reasons to help the Gallican prince. In addition, Maddie’s mother is reluctant to let Maddie go on a ranger mission. Readers may quickly become bored with the political and parental aspects of the story. Despite this, fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will be happy that Will Treaty plays a major role in The Missing Prince.

Some of the story’s plot feels redundant because Will again disguises himself as a jongleur. Despite this, fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will enjoy Will and Maddie’s relationship and the two working together. Plus, the conclusion has several surprises and leaves readers with several unanswered questions. Even though The Missing Prince lacks the action of other books, the cliffhanger will have readers reaching for Escape from Falaise.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • To stop a band of thieves, Will dresses like an old farmer. When the thieves see Will, they try to stop him. Will shoots an arrow and “Jem was down, rolling in agony on the ground and clutching an arrow that had transfixed his left calf.”
  • One of the bandits, Barton, tries to hit Will, who lifts the man and throws him. “Barton landed with a heavy thud, flat on his back. . . When he recovered, he found himself looking along the blade of a very sharp saxe knife, which pricked the soft skin of his throat.” Will and Maddie take the men to the local law.
  • While Will and Maddie are entertaining, thieves appear and demand everyone’s money. A young man tries to intervene, but “the bandit leader stepped in close to him and swung the butt of the crossbow so that it slammed into Simon’s forehead.” The man is injured.
  • As the thieves are celebrating their newfound wealth, the leader “held his bottle up prior to drinking from it. Will’s arrow smashed through it, showering the drunken bandit chief with wine and shattered fragments of glass, before thudding, quivering into a log lying ready by the fire.” To take down the bandit leader, Maddie “whipped the sling up and over and the lead shot hissed through the air across the clearing, striking Vincent’s skull behind the ear with an ugly thud. The bandit’s eyes glazed, and he let out a sickly little moan. . . he crashed to the forest floor, stunned.” The scene is described over four pages.
  • While Will and Maddie are restraining the bandits, “a man rose onto one knee and leveled the crossbow.” Will sees the movement and “he drew his throwing knife and sent it spinning across the clearing. . .the knife hit him in the center of his chest.”
  • While searching the castle tower for the missing prince, “a burly figure” sees Maddie. When the man grabs her, “she suddenly stepped toward him. . .she grabbed a handful of tunic, bent her legs and shoved her backside into his body.” She then knees him in the groin and runs.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Will and Maddie pose as jongleurs and perform in local taverns. The customers often drink wine and ale. When they eat at the castle, ale and wine are also served.
  • A man who has been following Will and Maddie, goes into a tavern and is “nursing a tankard of ale.”
  • After the thieves rob the townspeople, they hide in the forest. The eight men were “sprawled around the camp. They stole some wine from the tavern last night and they’re all drinking.” The men turn into a “nosy, drunken group.”
  • Will and Maddie see a peddler who had “casks of ale and wine.”

Language

  • A man thinks that the Gallic king is a “pompous prat.”
  • Damn is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Ice Wreck

In 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out for the South Pole. They never made it. Within sight of land, the ship ran into dangerous waters filled with chunks of ice. Then the sea froze around them! There was no hope of rescue. Could Shackleton find a way to save himself and his men?

Ernest Shackleton is an admirable explorer who demonstrates bravery and quick thinking. Even though the expedition to the South Pole was not a success, Shackleton and all of his men survived the brutal cold after their ship sank below the ocean. Ice Wreck explains Shackleton’s experiences through nonfiction text. Unlike a story, Ice Wreck only focuses on Shackleton and contains no dialogue or suspense.

Ice Wreck’s format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and illustrations. The book contains photographs of the expedition as well as full-color drawings that appear every 1 to 2 pages. The Stepping Stones Series is specifically written for young readers and allows readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics.

Ice Wreck is an excellent choice for parents and teachers who want to introduce non-fiction reading to their children. Ernest Shackleton’s quick thinking and dedication to his men highlight the qualities of a great leader. To learn more about Shackleton’s expedition, Ice Wreck can be paired with Race to the South Pole.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While stranded on an ice flow, the men were running out of food. “One sad day, there wasn’t enough left to feed the dogs. Soon they would starve. The men had to shoot them.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Duel at Araluen

King Duncan and Princess Cassandra are trapped in the south tower of Castle Araluen and under near-constant attack from the Red Fox Clan. Sir Horace and Ranger Commandant Gilan are holed up in an old hill fort, surrounded by the enemy. And Ranger’s apprentice, Maddie, is the only one who can save them all.

With the help of Hal, Thorn, and the rest of the Heron brotherband, Maddie will have to break her father and his men out of the hill fort, but will they reach Castle Araluen in time?

As the third installment of the Royal Ranger Series, Duel at Araluen continues the story of the Red Fox Clan who plan to kill King Duncan, Princess Cassandra, and Maddie. Unlike the previous two books in the series, Duel at Araluen describes many skirmishes between the rebels and the Araluens. While the book has less adventure, there is non-stop action as three groups—the Scandians, Horace and his soldiers, and Cassandra and her loyal army—prepare to defeat the Red Fox Clan.

While the book revolves around war, there is never senseless killing. Even though the Red Fox Clan planned to kill Horace and his men, when the rebels are defeated, Horace doesn’t execute the traitors. Instead, Horace orders his men to “leave the tents there for them so they won’t die of exposure. . . We’ll leave them what medical supplies and bandages we can spare and they can take care of one another.” Like the previous books, many people die, but all of the killings are in self-defense.

Duel at Araluen highlights the importance of loyalty, friendship, and bravery. For example, Jesper, one of the Scandians, makes several mean comments to one of his shipmates. Afterwards, Jesper claimed he was just joking. Hal scolds Jasper, saying, “A joke is when everyone can have a good laugh together. But when you do something that’s spiteful and hurtful and causes misery to someone else, that’s not a joke. That’s cruelty.”

Duel at Araluen uses the same format of all The Ranger’s Apprentice books. Even though the format is familiar, readers will be happy to see returning characters such as the Scandians from the Brotherband Series. Seeing the world from Maddie’s point of view gives the setting a fresh outlook. Plus, both Cassandra and Maddie have strong roles that involve leadership, planning, and fighting. Instead of being portrayed as stereotypical damsels in distress, Cassandra and Maddie are well-developed, capable characters who have many admirable traits. Readers who want to explore books with a strong female character and plenty of action should also add the League of Archers Series by Eva Howard to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • After the Red Fox Clan took over the castle, the King, Cassandra and a group of loyal soldiers lock themselves in a tower. The Red Fox Clan started throwing projectiles at the tower. In response, Cassandra’s archers shoot arrows at the invading army. “Two of the first three shots found their targets. One man fell away from the windlass, an arrow in his upper body. Another. . . went down with a shaft in his thigh.”
  • The Red Fox Clan builds a trebuchet and uses it to throw rocks at the castle tower. Cassandra’s archers shoot fire arrows at the trebuchet and the invading army. “Two men went down. One of them stayed down. The other one hauled himself to his feet. . . an arrow through his lower leg. . . All the while, the tree archers peppered the trebuchet with arrows, but to no real effect. The only reward for their efforts was a sole figure lying unmoving on the flagstones.”
  • The Red Fox Clan begins throwing fire bladders at the tower. “Cassandra started in fear as the bladder struck the tower. . . Almost instantly, there was a roar of flame as the oil and pitch ignited, and a flood of fire erupted over the balcony, some of it clinging to the walls, while the rest dripped down and spread tendrils of flame over the floor.” No one is injured by the fire bladders.
  • The Red Fox Clan plan to swarm the fort that Horace, Gilan, and their army are hiding. “The light flared up, revealing a mass of some twenty men on the walkway. Instantly, the archers on the east and west walls drew, aimed and shot. A storm of arrows slammed into the attackers as they bunched together. . . more arrows slammed into them as they hesitated.”
  • During the attack, the rebels use ladders to scale the fort’s walls. “Their leader ran to be the first down one of the ladders. But, five spaces short of it, he was struck by an arrow and hurled back against the rough timbers of the palisade.”
  • One of the rebels lunges at Gilan with a sword. “Gilan’s sword, gleaming blood-red in the smoky firelight, struck like a viper, driving the man’s upper body, piercing the chain metal there. The swordsman gasped and stepped back. . . [Gilan] swung in a diagonal overhead cut at the man on his left. The stroke went home and the man fell to his knees, crying out in pain and shock. Then he toppled sideways.” The battle is described over nine pages.
  • After the battle, a man gives a casualty report. The Araluen’s lost two men and three others were injured. The rebels lost at least a dozen men and eight are wounded and cannot flee.
  • Along with the Scandians, the Araluens attack the rebel army. The Araluens use their lances to try to break up the enemy’s shield wall. “Some of the lances penetrated, forcing their way between the shields, hitting bodies, legs, and arms.” The battle is described over eight pages.
  • During the battle, one of the rebels “reared up in agony, clutching vainly at an arrow that had magically appeared between his shoulder blades.”
  • One of the leaders of the rebel army, Trask, steals his own soldier’s horse and tries to flee. But Maddie sees Trask and uses her sling as a weapon. Trask “felt a thundering impact on his helmet, right in the center of his forehead. . . Vaguely, he felt himself topple backward from the saddle and crash onto the soft grass. Then everything went black.”
  • The rebels set a door on fire, trying to chase Cassandra and her army to flee. One of Cassandra’s sergeants goes around the wall and a crossbowman “raised his weapon and shot. . . Then the crossbow bolt hit him and he reared back, falling dead at Cassandra’s feet.”
  • The book ends with a multi-chapter battle between the Araluens and the Red Fox Clan, where many people die. During the battle, one of Cassandra’s archers is stabbed and “with a startled cry of pain, the archer fell back on the steps, his spear clattering on the stonework as he dropped it.” Many men are killed in a similar manner.
  • During the attack, one of the rebels “felt a chill of fear clutch his heart as he realized he was seriously outmatched. . . In total panic, he turned to run, but Hal leaped forward and, reversing his sword, brought the heavy hilt down on the back of the man’s head, sending him sprawling unconscious on the boards of the walkway.”
  • Cassandra and the rebel leader, Dimon, fight. Cassandra injures him. “Blood dripped slowly from Dimon’s left arm, but not in sufficient quantities to weaken him.” At one point, Cassandra “twisted desperately to the right. The blade scored across her ribs, opening a long, shallow slash in her side. Blood welled out instantly, staining her jerkin.” Cassandra kills Dimon. The sword fight is described over five pages.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of Cassandra’s sergeants was “nursing a mug of ale—a small mug, in view of their limited supply.”

Language

  • Damn is used three times. For example, Dimon says, “I should have thought of this damned tower, should have remembered how impregnable it can be.”
  • Maddie’s horse says, “By Blarney’s perpetual beard, when you sleep, you really sleep, don’t you?”
  • Maddie calls her horse a know-all and a blowhard.
  • Twice a Scandian uses “Orlog’s ears” as an exclamation.
  • The king calls the rebel’s leader scum.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Maddie’s horse makes a comment about Blarney, “a minor Hibernian deity. . .His beard grew constantly down to his feet, no matter how often he cut or shaved it.”

The Secret of the Magic Pearl

Hector lives with his family in an Italian coastal town where they organize tourist expeditions to explore the many wonders of the sea. Hector’s dream is to become a deep-sea diver, just like his father. Then, one day, an unscrupulous entrepreneur opens a much newer tourist center next door, forcing them to close their business. This unscrupulous entrepreneur has a single purpose, to find the legendary Pearl in order to sell it and make money. Hector decides to find a way to thwart the man’s plan and save what matters most to him: the sea, his family, and his dream.   

Hector tells his own story, which allows the reader to understand his love of the sea. Readers may find the story dull since most of the action is told from Hector’s point of view. However, Hector does an amazing job describing the people in the story and often uses comical descriptions such as one character who had “hair that looks like it was licked by a cow.” Because everything is filtered through Hector, none of the characters have much depth. However, the villain does learn that family is more important than riches.  

The real gems of The Secret of the Magic Pearl are the beautiful, full-color illustrations that are whimsical and beautiful. Many of the pages have full-page illustrations and almost all the pages have at least one picture. The illustrations show the characters and often include fanciful details. For example, when Hector dreams about his grandfather, his grandfather is wearing a ship captain’s jacket, has a starfish attached to his coat, and instead of legs, he has octopus tentacles. In fact, many of the pages have ocean creatures as part of the illustrations; readers will have fun trying to identify all the fish and other creatures.  

While the story isn’t full of excitement, readers will enjoy studying the illustrations in The Secret of the Magic Pearl. Anyone who loves the sea will relate to Hector and will enjoy seeing him go on his first deep-sea dive where he learns that “beautiful things should be shared and there’s nothing more beautiful than our sea.” Any child who loves the ocean will enjoy The Secret of the Magic Pearl. Since the book mentions Jacques Cousteau, you may also want to grab a copy of Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne.   

 Sexual Content 

  • None 

 Violence 

  • None 

 Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

 Language   

  • Hector thinks that some men are dimwits. 
  • A man calls his employees “stupid, incompetent blobfish!” 

 Supernatural 

  • The sea is portrayed as a living entity.  

 Spiritual Content 

  • None

Be Brave Little Penguin

Little Penguin Pip-Pip would love to join in with all his friends swimming in the sea, but there’s just one problem . . . he’s scared of water. Can Pip-Pip overcome his fear and finally take the plunge? This irresistible story shows that sometimes all it takes is a little bit of encouragement – and a whole lot of heart – to finally make that leap and be brave!

At first, Pip-Pip watches the other penguins playing in the water. They tease him, calling him “Scaredy-Pip-Pip.” Little Pip-Pip is so sad that a single tear runs down his cheek. Pip-Pip’s mommy treats him lovingly as she reminds him, “we all have certain fears that might be hard to understand.”

Readers will relate to Pip-Pip, who worries about all the what-ifs. “What if the water’s freezing? And what if there are monsters who smell me from their den, and they slither up and eat me and I’m never seen again?” Mommy penguin asks Pip-Pip to turn his what-ifs into something positive. “What if in that water there are friends for you to meet? And what if it is light and warm and full of treats to eat?”

Pip-Pip finally takes the jump and discovers that swimming is so much fun. The cute story uses a beautiful blue color pallet that contrasts with the black-and-white penguins. The full-page illustrations are adorable and have fun elements, like the penguins playing with fish. Plus, the illustrations help readers visualize Pip-Pip’s fears. For example, one illustration shows a large, scary octopus deep underwater.

Be Brave, Little Penguin is a fantastic, fun story that uses rhymes to help young readers face their fears. Because Mommy penguin is loving and encouraging, she is able to help Pip-Pip learn that “sometimes all you have to do is just be brave and jump.” By the end of the story, Pip-Pip is smiling and laughing, which will leave readers with a big grin as well.

Readers will fall in love with Pip-Pip and the other penguins because of the adorably cute illustrations, but the story will become one of your child’s favorite picture books because of the relatable conflict. Each page has one to four sentences that are easy to understand. Plus, some of the words are in bold and some of the sentences are curved to add even more emphasis.

Be Brave, Little Penguin is a must-read because of the entertaining storyline as well as the positive message that will help readers overcome their fears and gain confidence. If you’d like to explore more books that will help young children face their fears, check out Otis and the Puppy by Loren Long and The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark by Deborah Diesen.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The other penguins tease Pip-Pip, calling him “Scaredy-Pip-Pip.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

32    3.3    5 worms   AR    picture book, must read

 

Daughter of the Siren Queen

Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.

In Daughter of the Siren Queen, Alosa and her crew are only days away from being caught by the Pirate King. Both the Pirate King and Alosa hope to reach a legendary treasure that will allow them to rule the seas. However, Alosa’s crew faces many dangers, including an island of cannibals and the lack of drinking water. During this time, Riden helps Alosa try to understand her siren abilities. Unfortunately, once Riden and Alosa begin to work together, most of their fun banter ends. Instead, Riden becomes a submissive man, who stays mostly in the background.

When Riden fades into the background, Alosa’s crew of fierce, capable women are given center stage. Even though they are ruthless pirates, the crew respects and cares for each other. While Alosa is the captain of the ship, she still has enough confidence to leave others in command when necessary. One of the crew members has a six-year-old daughter, who adds humor and heart to the story. Unlike most pirates who are loyal to whomever has the most gold, Alosa’s crew are loyal to each other because of their friendship. The unique perspective of the women pirates makes Daughter of the Siren Queen interesting and enjoyable.

Readers will also get a look into the siren’s world. Alosa worries that her siren half turns her into a monster. However, when she is introduced to her mother’s world, Alosa realizes that the women are not heartless monsters. Instead, their world is full of beauty and love. Despite this, Alosa never loses her desire to remain in the human world. Alosa loves being a pirate, loves her crew, and loves the human world.

Full of friendship, battles, and complicated relationships, Daughter of the Siren Queen is a fast-paced story that takes readers on an exciting ocean adventure. Bloody battles keep the tension high, but Alosa’s crew balances out the action with friendship and humor. If you’re up for non-stop action, and high-stakes sword fights, then Daughter of the Siren Queen is a must-read. However, if you’re looking to set sail on a pirate ship without bloody fights, jump aboard Lintang and the Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss.

Sexual Content

  • Two of Alosa’s crew see her staring at Riden. A girl says, “he looks delicious.” Her sister replies, “From behind, anyways. Can’t judge the man properly until we see the front.”
  • Two of Alosa’s crew members were “whores.” She explains, “They were forced into that life. I broke them out when I witnessed them fighting off a couple of men who tried to take their services for free after hours.”
  • The Pirate King’s keep has a “brothel.”
  • To distract a pirate, Alosa slides “my hands up his arms to his shoulders. . .He crushes his mouth to mine. All intensity and passion.” As she kisses the pirate, she thinks about Riden, who will “pin me against some hard surface, place his hands on either side of my waist, and lean down until all the air between us is gone.”
  • Alosa gets upset at Riden. When he tries to comfort her, she “lunge[s] at him. . . I place my lips over his so quickly, I think his eyes are still open when I reach him. . . My fingers slide into his hair, silky smooth and wonderful. . .” Riden welcomes Alosa’s touch. “His tongue slides in, completely bathing me in sensations.” The scene is described over one page.
  • Alosa and Riden kiss several times. For example, Riden’s “lips brush my neck as he starts kissing his way up to my hairline. My body shudders, an uncontrollable reaction to him. . . His free hand slides around my waist, pressing me into him.” They stop kissing when they are interrupted.
  • After professing their love, Riden and Alosa kiss. “He kisses me softly, languorously, savoring every time our lips connect. I melt under the pressure but manage to yank at his still damp shirt. He helps me take it off. . .Without breaking the kiss, I start to pull him backward with me, toward my bed.” Riden hears a siren’s song and walks away from Alosa. The scene is described over three pages.

Violence

  • There is an overabundance of violence and not all scenes are described below.
  • Alosa and her crew begin killing the lookouts who are watching over Vordan’s crew. “The sound of [Alosa’s] knife slitting across a throat feels much too loud in the darkness. I catch the pirate before his corpse hits the ground.”
  • Alosa and her crew get into the inn where the pirates are sleeping. Alosa puts three men under her spell so they will fight on her side. Then Alosa rams her “shoulder into the pirate who dared to call me ‘the siren bitch,’ sending him over the railing. He screams until he’s cut off with a loud crunch. . .I’m already thrusting my sword through the belly of the next pirate. He collapses to the floor, and I walk over his twitching body to the next man.”
  • During the battle, Alosa sends her “elbow into the underside of [a pirate’s] chin. His head snaps back, and I cut off his grunt by raking my cutlass across his throat.”
  • Alosa and her girls blow up the inn. “The inn still stands, but it’s burning apart from the inside. . . The pirates still inside are burning husks on the ground.”
  • Alosa has Vordan put in a cage. When he protests, “he’s cut off by Sorinda’s fist slamming into his gut. She gags him and ties his hands behind his back.” The fight scene is described over 10 pages.
  • To get Vordan to talk, Alosa puts him under her siren’s spell and makes him hallucinate. “Vordan holds a knife in his hand. He glances at it in fear before thrusting it down into his own leg, the one that isn’t broken. He screams before changing the sound into an angry grunt.”
  • Alosa gets to her father’s keep, where “dead men dangle by ropes from the top of the tunnel… hooks that have been inserted into the mouths of traitors. They are hung up like captured fish for all to see. . .”
  • When Praxer upsets the Pirate King, the king cuts off Praxer’s hand. “Praxer screams as red sprays the nearby men and tables. . .Praxer has sunk to the floor. He muffles his screams long enough to meet my father’s eyes.”
  • Alosa and some of her crew go to an island where they find cannibals. “Deschel runs towards her sister’s remains. Lotiya’s throat has been ripped out. She’s missing a leg and an arm and so much blood. It’s all over the cave. . . Animal-like shouts and growls sound down the cave and grow closer, alerted to our presence by the gunshots.”
  • The cannibals chase Alosa and her crew. “Riden pours more gunpowder into his pistol, takes aim, and fires. The first cannibal in line falls, tripping those immediately behind. . .Riden is busy blocking the tunnel by himself now while I grasp around frantically for my sword. Eventually, my hand finds something hard and heavy. A human femur, I think. I bring it down on the cannibal’s head, which knocks him out instantly.”
  • When the Pirate King tries to take over Alosa’s ship, cannons are fired and “one blow[s] apart a group of men huddled together while the other nicked the mizzenmast. . . Gunfire ripples through the air on both sides. My girls are well protected behind their barrels, crates, rowboats, and other hiding places.”
  • During the fight, Alosa puts men under her spell and causes them to jump overboard. “Men shriek as the eels circle them. The eels like to toy with their food first.” When several of Alosa’s girls fall into the water, she goes in after them. “I reach for the dagger in my boot, launching myself at the eel from the side. Dagger connects first, then my legs wrap around the creature’s body, just long enough for my feet to connect on the other side of the massive water beast.” Alosa kills the creature and save her friends. The battle is described over eight pages.
  • During the fighting, one of Alosa’s crew dies. “Haeli. She took a bullet to the back.”
  • The book ends in a multi-chapter battle between Alosa’s crew and the Pirate King’s crew. Alosa’s father punishes her by shooting three members of her crew. The Pirate King “pulls the trigger. Niridia’s leg buckles, forcing her to the ground. Blood seeping through a hole in the leggings over her knee. . . Another shot fires. . . He has a new pistol, smoke coalescing from it. Reona, one of my riggers, jerks to the right and falls.”
  • The siren’s sing to the Pirate King’s men. However, the men have wax in their ears, so they remain safe. “Many of the men hold harpoons, waiting until the right moment to fling them into the sea at targets. . . Luminescent bodies float on the surface of the water in a tangle of rich hair and blood-stained skin. . . One siren flings herself out of the water, leaping over the boat as a dolphin might, and plummets into an unsuspecting pirate, knocking him into the sea below her.” Many men and sirens die.
  • Roslyn, a six-year-old, is part of Alosa’s crew. When Alosa and her crew are locked in cells, Roslyn is able to get the key. As she is letting the crew out, “A gunshot explodes through the mostly quiet brig. . . Blood spurts wildly from [Roslyn’s] head. And she falls. . . a pool of blood forms near Roslyn.”
  • Sorinda attacks a pirate who has Alosa cornered. “A sword point rips through his stomach. A labored sigh escapes him as he stares down at the metal. Sorinda doesn’t wait for him to drop before yanking her cutlass back through his gut and moving to the next target.”
  • Roslyn’s father attacks the man who shot her. Roslyn’s father has “got Tylon by the shoulders, and he slams his head into the ground over and over. I don’t know how long Tylon has been dead, but Wallov doesn’t seem to notice anything at all.”
  • The Pirate King captures Alosa’s mother. “She is strapped to a chair with ropes. They bind her shoulders to the chair’s back, her thighs to the seat, her ankles to the chair’s leg. Her wrists are bound together behind her back… her face is lightly swollen, starting to show the signs of the beating Kalligan no doubt gave her.” After capturing the Siren Queen, the sirens join the battle and manage to defeat the Pirate King’s men.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of Alosa’s crew members is “a useless drunk most of the time.” When he realizes a girl cares about him, he goes through withdrawals and then stays sober.

Language

  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes bastard, damn, hell, and piss.
  • A pirate calls Alosa a “siren bitch.”
  • Riden is upset that Alosa used her siren abilities on him. When he yells at her, she says, “You’re being a prick. I did nothing wrong.”

Supernatural

  • Alosa’s siren half gives her magical abilities. “I can sing to men and make them do whatever I wish… I can read the emotions of men… I can tell what any man wants in a woman, become it, and use it to manipulate him.”
  • Alosa tries to learn how to control her siren abilities. “When I take in the water, I become a creature with no knowledge of my human existence, no knowledge of those I care about or my human aspirations. I become what I would have been if I’d never known life above the sea.”
  • Alosa meets a charm of sirens, who show her the siren’s treasure. Alosa’s mother explains, “As soon as we knew there was treasure aboard, we sang to the rest of the men, demanding they throw everything valuable overboard. When they were done, we had them toss themselves in afterward. So we could enjoy them.”

Spiritual Content

  • When the mast breaks, Alosa says, “Let’s pray to the stars we can find a suitable trunk ashore.”
  • Pirates believe that “to not be buried at sea is to be damned for eternity, never finding rest with the stars.”
  • When a pirate dies, the crew “let the remains of Lotiya’s body drift off to sea, buried with the fallen pirates before her. When her soul departs from her body, it will follow the lantern light and find the water’s surface. From there, it will be able to see the stars and fly up to the heavens. Every soul parted from this world is a star in the sky.”

 

Dawn Patrol

Luca and Esme have more than monster waves to worry about.

When Kevin disappears, leaving only a cryptic note, his best friends Luca and Esme have no choice but to try and find him. Their journey takes them to the coast of Panama, where they confront monster waves, unfriendly locals and a surfer who seems bent on destroying them. As their hope dwindles and time runs out, Luca and Esme realize they may be in over their heads.

Because of the short length of the book, none of the characters are well-developed. However, the fast-paced mystery will still capture readers’ interest. The main plot focuses on Luca and Esme’s search for their missing friend. As the two friends search for clues, they meet Jose, whose strange behavior puts Luca and Esme on high alert. Between surfing monster waves, looking for clues, and trying to track down Jose, Dawn Patrol keeps the action and mystery high.

The story is told from Luca’s point of view. Readers will connect with Luca because he is an admirable character who is willing to go to great lengths to find his friend. The conclusion ends on a hopeful note but doesn’t wrap up all the story threads. Despite this, Dawn Patrol is a quick and easy read that will engage readers. As part of the Orca Sports collection, Dawn Patrol is perfect for reluctant readers because it uses a high-interest topic that will entertain teens and help them improve their reading skills.

Sexual Content

  • When talking to a girl, Luca tells her that he’s not interested in Esme. “Nor would I be interested in getting together in, um, that way with this Jose guy.”
  • Luca meets Alana and a few days later, “she leaned over and kissed me on the mouth.” Alana and Luca kiss two more times, but the kisses are not described.

Violence

  • While trying to chase down Jose, “a big guy in dark sunglasses ran out of a hut and barreled into us. . .I slipped and fell headfirst into the water. I popped up just in time to see Esme hit the water.”
  • Esme is kidnapped. When Luca finds the hut Esme is being held at, he tries to sneak up to it, but “Jose came out of the trees and tackled me to the ground. . . I was face-first in the dirt. I struggled to get away. Jose had his hand on the back of my head, pushing my face into the sand.” Luca gets away.
  • Kevin, Esme’s boyfriend, holds a knife toward Delgado, the man that kidnapped Esme. “Kevin hit Delgado’s throat with his forearm, dragged him to the ground, and smacked his head. There were tears on his cheeks.” Delgado lets Esme go.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • While in the village, Esme and Luca pass a group of people who are drinking beer.

Language

  • Profanity is used frequently. Profanity includes ass, crap, damn, and hell.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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

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