The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  When a fisherman friend accidentally catches a great white shark, Lucy and Fred are among the first to go see it.  Fred is excited by anything having to do with science, and Lucy has a connection to sharks because her late mother studied them and even swam with them.  The two of them are working on a field guide about the wildlife they find in their hometown of Rockport, Massachusetts, and they plan to include information and drawings of the shark.  When tragedy strikes, though, the field guide project is put on hold, and Lucy must deal with another huge loss in her life. Fortunately she’s surrounded by community–her dad, neighbors, teachers, and friends–who each offer her a chance to heal in their own unique ways.  When Lucy gets the opportunity to help continue the shark research her mother started, she realizes it’s a chance to move forward into her new life. 384 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  The beautiful writing, memorable characters, and moving story make this award material for sure.  Kate Allen captures the feeling of summer on the Massachusetts shore, with just the right amount of nostalgia for the 1990’s.  Lucy’s drawings of different sharks grace the beginning of each chapter.

Cons:  Out of 37 non-graphic middle-grade books that I’ve read this year, ten feature a main character dealing with the loss of a parent and/or sibling.  That’s a lot, isn’t it? When I got to the Bridge to Terabithia moment of this book, I almost gave up and  chucked it into the library book drop.  I’m glad I persevered, but I wonder how many 11- and 12-year-old readers will.

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