by Ellen Prager
Scarlett Junior Readers
Age 8 to 12 288 pages
“Things are beginning to look up for clumsy Tristan Hunt. After falling into a pool of sharks, Tristan is invited to an ocean-themed summer camp in the Florida Keys. He soon discovers that he and the other young teens there have special talents when it comes to the ocean. When the camp receives a distress call from ocean animals, Tristan and his new friends get pulled into a daring rescue in the Bahamas. With sharks, dolphins, and quick-escape-artist octopus, can the campers outwit and evil shark-finning, reef-blasting billionaire?”
“A sudden unnatural hush fell over the crowd. All eyes were fixed on the pool below.”
Tristan spends his summer at the Florida Keys Sea Park Summer Camp. He and the other campers all have some unusual ability related to the ocean. Tristan can relate to sharks. He hones this ability during most of the summer camp. A billionaire accused of shark-finning holds three older campers hostage on his ship. The simple rescue mission Tristan and the other new campers become involved in turns out to be a more dangerous mission than originally planned. Tristan and the others may not get back to camp before the billionaire’s goonies harm them. This would not go over well with parents expecting to pick up sons and daughters at camp’s end.
The Shark Whisperer takes place in one of my favorite places: waters south of Florida. Each camper has a special ability related to the ocean and its creatures. Tristan found he could relate to and understand sharks after falling into a Sea World-type amusement park’s shark tank. Tristan makes two new friends and the three bond over the summer. Friendship is a big deal in The Shark Whisperer as is loyalty, confidentiality, bravery, and self-sacrifice. The ocean life knowing how to “speak” to humans is a fascinating idea, though made up. Even though the characters and their abilities are not real, it is easy to suspend belief while reading the story.
There is much action in The Shark Whisperer, some of which is funny and a little gross. Birds help the campers with the rescue by pooping on top the billionaire’s goonies, on cue, and throwing . . . well, that one I’ll let you find out on your own, but trust me it is hilarious, especially when the billionaire goes out on . . . there I go again giving away great moments. I loved the way the ocean and marina animals worked together, even those that are natural enemies. Once the problem is resolved, the natural order of life resumes as if nothing had happened.
Dr. Prager inserts much ocean science into the story, mostly about marine life. In the back of the book, she wrote a short note to the reader explaining what was real and what was not. You may be surprised at some of those that are real. The billionaire’s actions are real. There are those that cut the fin from sharks for a soup considered an expensive delicacy in Asia. Shark finning is especially heinous as are damaging reefs, and blasting the seabed.
The Shark Whisperer takes kids on a journey through the ocean, viewing much of it from the animals’ perspective. This is a science fiction / adventure story with real ocean conservation as the theme. At an awkward age, Tristan cannot keep up with his growing body and tends to trip over his large feet. When swimming, Tristan finds he is a marvel in the water. As his confidence grows so do his abilities. The Shark Whisperer will excite kids about the ocean and preserving it for generations to come. While not the reason for writing the book, it is a wonderful offshoot that may one day return the ocean to the glory it once was.
The author holds a PhD, is a marine scientist, and was once the chief scientist at the world’s only undersea research station in the Florida Keys. The camp is somewhat based on this research station. All of Dr. Prager’s credentials, degrees, and experience make her one of, if not the, smartest people in ocean science today. Her writing is engaging and interesting. I hope this series has a long run. As it is, The Shark Whisperer has stayed in my head for days after finishing—in good way, if you don’t mind three kids—and one reader—itching to go back to camp.
THE SHARK WHISPERER. Text copyright © 2014 by Dr. Ellen Prager. Illustrations copyright © by Antonio Javier Caparo. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Scarletta Junior Reader, an imprint of Scarletta Press, Minneapolis, MN.
Lean more about The Shark Whisperer HERE.
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