A lively narrative that should inspire careful consideration of the oceans.



In this debut novel, a sea squirt larva leaves her tide-pool home on a journey of acceptance.

Eleven-year-old Siona Seaton hates the ocean. Unfortunately, her mother, Dr. Seaton, is a marine biologist and has brought her to the beach to collect samples. While she’d like to sit somewhere dry and read, Siona instead explores the tide pools—and gets bit by a ragworm. Later, at home, Dr. Seaton consoles her daughter with the story of Siona the sea squirt, who lived 521.2 million years ago. Siona is a larva, still able to swim before attaching to a rock for the sedentary portion of her life. But her father, Sir Squirt, notices that her head and tail are much bigger than they should be, lamenting, “Not all larvae can be perfect.” He also tells her that only 10 percent of sea squirt larvae survive. Yet Siona believes her large tail can help others, and a neighbor, a Hallucigenia named Helamite, suggests visiting Clarissa the Clairvoyant Clam for advice. Her parents disapprove of the adventure, but Siona hopes to locate Sydney the Sea Star, who knows the secret passage to Clarissa’s tide pool. Danger lurks along the way in the form of pistol shrimp and sea spiders. Liepe’s enjoyable educational novel doesn’t stop with characters based on marine invertebrates from the colorful Cambrian radiation. In this tale that exceptionally smart kids and adults should find entertaining, she packs her prose with science facts from various disciplines, as in the line “Photons of light escaped” the sun “as packets of energy, waves, and particles to bombard and bounce from the shell of a snail.” But some of the concepts—like protein “widgets”—may be tough for younger readers to visualize without a quick web search. The friendly images by debut illustrator Kathleen reveal just how bizarre animals like Anomalocaris canadensis were. Occasionally, Liepe checks in with her human cast, and as Siona learns about the sea, she gradually overcomes her fear of it. Toward the end is a useful warning about ocean acidification and bleached coral, signs that humanity is destroying the foundation of the planet’s abundance.

A lively narrative that should inspire careful consideration of the oceans.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5320-3896-9

Page Count: 202

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.


In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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