Gr. 3-7 Jeremy Barnes is having the worst summer of his life. His parents are divorced. He’s spending the summer with his scientist mom rather than with his friends. He hates that they’re aboard the Oceania II because what’s worse is that they’re going to be in the middle of the ocean. On land in Seattle, science-enthusiast Sidney Miller must spend the summer with her hippie (but cool) grandmother doing something educational every single day in lieu of heading off to (ugh) summer camp. When Jeremy is put in charge of locating and sending invitations to a list of scientists to join the Oceania II crew for the purpose of bringing attention to the urgent need for clean water and the massive amount of plastic clogging the ocean, Sidney is mistaken to be Dr. Sidney Miller, from the Marine Lab at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
It’s no mistake, according to Sidney’s grandmother, who wholeheartedly believes in synchronicity, so utilizing a little subterfuge with Sidney’s parents, they plot to get her onto the ship—after all, being on board is educational, right? When she shows up to the Oceania II, and Jeremy realizes his gigantic mistake, the two twelve-year-olds figure out how to smuggle Sidney onto the ship as the kid who was a no-show. Jeremy and Sidney become buddies, and the two partner in the quest to secure funding for the ship’s program and to highlight to the world the seriousness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Told in alternating points of view, Jeremy and Sidney are exceptionally likeable characters who engage in eco-activism with creative and no-holds-barred thinking. In turn, they show readers that youth can lead the way to a better and cleaner future. Consider the Octopus by Nora Raleigh Baskin and Gae Polisner (whose previous book was Seven Clues to Home) features crisp and engaging writing perfect for the target audience. And seriously, how can you not love a story with a goldfish named Rachel Carson that Sidney sneaks onto the ship? In between the humor and close calls, the authors include information about plastics and microplastics—what they are, the destruction they’re causing to the ocean and marine life, and how important it is to support the cleanup of the Garbage Patch. The novel is fun, inspiring, educational (without lecturing), and well-timed. Perfect for kids who are concerned about the environment and those who should be. Even reluctant readers will embrace this story.
P.S. If you know an 8- to 12-year-old, please buy this book for them. They’ll love you for it!