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The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Things haven’t really been the same for Lucy Everhart and her dad since her mom died five years ago.  A renowned biologist, Lucy’s mom was on a boat tracking great white sharks off the north Atlantic coast when she died.  Lucy’s dad is a police detective in their small coastal Massachusetts town and a rescue diver who works all up and down the coast, which means he isn’t home too much, but her neighbors are always there – old Mr. Patterson on one side, hanging out on his porch listening to his police scanner, and the Kellys on the other, including Fred Kelly, Lucy’s best friend, and his two sisters.  Mrs. Kelly took care of Lucy after her mom died, when things were really bad, and Lucy feels almost like part of the Kelly family.

It’s summer, and Lucy and Fred are hard at work on their summer project, a field guide to Cape Ann wildlife (Fred writes the descriptions, while Lucy illustrates), when local fisherman Sookie catches a great white in one of his nets and hauls it to shore.  The two head to the dock to get a good look at the shark, and that night, while trying to get the illustrations right, Lucy catches some old footage on the news of her mom talking about great whites moving into the north Atlantic.  Footage she’s never seen before – which sets her down a path of discovery about her mom’s work with sharks, Fred by her side.  As the two dive deep into shark research, Lucy starts to feel like she’s getting to know her mom the biologist, not just her mom the mom.

But when another tragedy rips a new hole in Lucy’s heart, this time with serrated edges, she has to fight hard to hold on.  Her mom’s research feels like a life line, and finding answers her mom didn’t get a chance to investigate feels like a way for Lucy to keep swimming, even in the dark waters of grief.  With the field guide and her pencils in hand, her mom’s unanswered questions forming the path ahead, and help from more than a few unexpected places, Lucy slowly begins to find her way forward.

Shark Week is still a month away, but you can get a jump start with this fabulous debut novel by Minnesota author Kate Allen!  The Line Tender is an exploration of family, friendship, love, loss, and chock full of the science of sharks.  A great summer read (although maaaybe not for a trip to an ocean…), there are tons of shark and other marine biology facts in this novel that were super fascinating, and Lucy’s shark illustrations fill the space between each chapter.  With a mystery or two, quirky neighbors, good friends, a road trip, and lots of sharks, this is definitely one to add to your summer stack!

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

So far, sixth grade is turning out to be not such a great year for Merci.  A scholarship student at Seaward Pines Academy in Florida, she didn’t go on any fancy vacations over the summer like her classmates, instead hanging out at the beach with her family, practicing her soccer moves, and baby-sitting her wild twin cousins.  Bossy queen bee Edna is her same old self – using her weird ability to make everyone follow her lead to leave Merci behind.  None of the girls wants to play soccer anymore – too sweaty, and their hair might get messed up.  And Miss McDaniels in the office has signed Merci up for the Sunshine Buddies, a program for new kids at school to have someone to help them get settled – and paired her with a boy.  From Minnesota.  Who is as tall as a moose and pale as a vampire.  Even worse?  All of Edna’s opinions about Merci’s Sunshine Buddy.

On top of all of that school stuff, Lolo, Merci’s grandpa, who she can always count on to understand about things and help her feel better about being herself, is acting strangely – forgetting stuff, mixing up the twins, getting lost, and even falling off his bike on their weekly trip to her aunt’s bakery for Sunday dinner bread and cookies.  Merci is worried, but no one will tell her what’s going on.

At least she still has soccer games with Papi, and tryouts for the school team coming up, plus helping Papi and Lolo out with paint jobs on the weekend for their family business.  And she’s in Ms. Tannenbaum’s class this year, which means building an Egyptian tomb in the classroom, including a mummy.  But as stuff with Lolo gets more confusing – and scary – and Edna ramps up her anti-Merci agenda, sixth grade goes from bad to worse.  How is one kid supposed to deal with all this change she never even asked for in the first place?

I absolutely loved this year’s Newbery winner!  Merci Suárez Changes Gears is that fabulous middle grade novel that perfectly captures a year in transition.  Change is always hard, whether we choose it or not, and I loved cheering for Merci and her family as she starts to figure herself out.  With a marvelous sense of place, family worries, celebrations, fights, and plenty of love, and all the trials and rewards of beginning to discover who your true self and your true friends are, this is one I’d recommend for kid and adult readers alike.  Meg Medina has also written some stellar, award-winning, and super powerful YA fiction, so I’m happy to see she’s just as much of a powerhouse in the middle grade field.  Don’t miss this book, especially now that it has a shiny gold medal on the cover!

Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure by Torben Kuhlmann

Have you ever wondered where Thomas Edison got the idea for his lightbulb design? It turns out he may have had a little help…

Young mouse Pete has a mystery to solve, and he knows just who to ask for help – the Professor at the University of Mice.  Pete’s many-greats-grandfather boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic with a mysterious treasure generations ago, and was never heard from again.  He left no trace behind – only an ancient piece of paper that tells the tale of a sea voyage and a great treasure.

With the help of a little research and a magnifying glass, Pete and the Professor discover that the ship, the H.M.S. Atlantis, went down in a tragic accident.  All the human passengers were saved – bit what became of the mice, and all their belongings?  With that, Pete is off on a great scientific quest – to find a way to get to the bottom of the ocean and search the wreck of the Atlantis for his family treasure.  But can the two mice find a way to build an underwater submersible that will take them to the ocean floor, allow them to explore the deepest depths, evade the sea’s largest and most terrifying creatures, and make it safely back home again?  With a little ingenuity and a lot of scientific perseverance, Pete and the Professor are sure to find a way.

The third in Torben Kuhlmann’s marvelous series of books celebrating exploration and innovation, Edison is the perfect mix of history, the science of invention, the thrill of exploration, and, of course, mice making their way in a human world.  Gorgeously detailed illustrations reveal the wonder and beauty of the world through the eyes of small, clever creatures, making this hybrid picture/chapter book an adventure story perfect for all ages.  Shared aloud or pored over on your own, no matter how old you are, make sure you explore a little bit of mouse history with Pete and the Professor this spring.  And, once you’ve hunted for treasure with Pete for awhile, make sure you take a trip to the skies in Lindbergh, and then even further to the moon with Armstrong!