Friday, March 27, 2020

Fins (Sharks, Inc. #1)

White, Randy Wayne. Fins (Sharks, Inc. #1)
March 31st 2020 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Luke arrives in Florida from a farm in Ohio to stay with his grandfather and aunt Hannah after the death of his mother, since his stepfather doesn't really want him. Shortly after arriving, he is struck by lightning, which leaves him with several interesting scars, some synesthesia and occasional abilities to see things very clearly. His grandfather, wanting him to have something to do, connects him to Doc, who is running a shark tagging program. Joining him are Maribel and Sabina, two sisters who have recently arrived from Cuba. Poachers are killing sharks for their fins, which are used to make shark fin soup, but are leaving the rest of the shark to go to waste. Doc trains the children to tag the sharks (usually the very small ones), and then sends them off on their own to do this. They get into some trouble when Sabina (who is young enough to be missing front teeth) claims to have seen a poachers camp with sharks fins, but this turns out not to be true. She just wanted the attention of the news lady. The fact that the children's pictures appear in the paper is a bit worrisome, since the poachers are still on the loose. The children continue to go out in the boat and tag sharks, but run into a variety of problems. Eventually, they figure out what the poachers are up to and try to catch them. Will the police believe them this time?
Strengths: I always enjoy stories with an environmental message, and there are many interesting scientific details about the animals off the Florida coast. I also like to see children doing things. Mysteries are a popular genre in my library, and it's nice to have characters with a Cuban background. The author is from Ashland, Ohio (home of Grandpa's Cheese Barn!), which would explain Luke's background. Aside from McAnulty's The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, I can't think of any other books about children having been struck by lightning. This cover is fantastic.
Weaknesses: Luke is described as being from a farm in Ohio very frequently, and it got a bit annoying. In general, we are told about characters' traits instead of being shown through their actions, and none of them really grow. Luke in particular has little personality. I had a hard time believing that children were being sent out on a boat alone to tag sharks. With the presence of Doc, the grandfather and the aunt, (who also were very flat characters), it would have been more believable and interesting to have one of the adults involved, especially once there was a clear danger from poachers. I'm all for children having adventures, but this seemed unlikely.
What I really think: I think I will stick with Spradlin's fantastic Menace from the Deep or Carl Hiassen's mysteries to cover this area of the US. It's always interesting to see authors of adult books try their hand at middle grade, but this could have used a bit more work.
Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment