Friday, July 01, 2022

Guy Friday- Florida

Rodriguez, S.A. Treasure Tracks
June 28th 2022 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When Hurricane Irma threatens the Florida Keys, Fernando "Fin" and his abuelo Kiki leave and come to Fin's parents on the mainland, leaving behind the grandfather's boat, which the two were going to use to locate an almost century old lost treasure. Fin's great grandfather worked on a railroad that went over the water, Flagler's Folly, which was utterly destroyed by a 1935 storm. He had helped a man get a heavy suitcase on the train right before it went down, so family lore maintains that it had valuables in it. The greatgrandfather, as well as the grandfather, spent significant amounts of time looking for the treasure, to no avail. After staying with Fin's parents for a while, the two head back to the Keys to assess the damage and resume their search. Unfortunately, the grandfather has a heart attack while out on the boat. Quick thinking on Fin's part gets him airlifted to a Miami hospital, where they are met by Fin's parents. His grandfather recovers, but faces a long recuperation. Fin is desperate to complete his grandfather's mission to find the treasure, and his "boring" father goes to a lot of trouble and expense to help Fin, who has recently been certified to dive, go to various locations to look. Fin is glad to connect to his father, who fights a lot with the grandfather, but angry that his father hires people to help Fin dive. He's afraid they will want to steal the treasure if he gets close. Will Fin be able to locate the treasure and help his grandfather get better?
Strengths: This was fast paced and engaging, and featured very realistic family dynamics. Tweens are old enough to enjoy being with grandparents, but often are in the process of watching their inevitable decline. This doesn't wallow in grief, but shows Fin's displacement of that emotion-- if he can just find the treasure, his grandfather will get better. His parents are protective and supportive, but give him a lot of freedom. The diving details are great, the history of the railroad was fascinating, and Fin went about his mission in a fairly organized way. 
Weaknesses: I was personally irritated with Fin because he was so ungrateful to his father, who was really trying to help him find the treasure even though he didn't really believe it was there, but younger readers will side with Fin! Also, why in the world does anyone live in the Florida Keys? Every time I read a book set there, it seems like SUCH a bad idea! Beautiful, I'm sure, but... no.
What I really think: This reminded me a bit of Sneed Collard's Double Eagle, and was a fantastic debut. Lots of action and adventure, treasure, and a compelling family dynamic makes this a book that should appeal to both students and teachers. This might even work for a science class read aloud, if marine biomes are being studied, and students will enjoy this.

Griffiths, Evan. Manatee Summer
June 28th 2022 by Quill Tree Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Peter's mother is a high powered real estate agent in Florida, and his father lives far away and really isn't in contact. When school is out for the summer, he and his friend Tommy want to catalog animals around their town and hope to discover new ones. They are also very interested in the local manatees in the canal and concerned that local boaters, like their neighbor Mr. Reilly, are hurting the animals. There is a snag in the plans when Papa, his grandfather, shows rapidly increasing signs of dementia. It falls to Peter to watch him, and he doesn't want Tommy to know what is going on. The two don't go to the same school, so really want to spend time together during the summer. They approach the local boating organization, which doesn't seem to care when one manatee. Matters are complicated when Peter finds out that Tommy's family is moving away. When Hurrican Bernard approaches their area, Papa becomes obsessed with building a manatee sanctuary, and runs off in the middle of the storm. Will Peter be able to keep both the manatees and his grandfather safe?
Strengths: This combined a grandfather with memory issues with environmental activism in an interesting way. The family dynamics, and Peter's need to step up and care for Papa, were very realistic, and the pluses and minuses were well shown. There are lots of good details about the plight of the manatees, and Mr. Reilly and the boating association represent an all too likely scenario of people putting humans ahead of nature. The problems with losing a friend to a move are all too real for many young readers. Marine biology is a topic that interests even my students in landlocked central Ohio.  
Weaknesses: Mr. Reilly was an odd character; I kept expecting him to evolve into someone better. The issues with the grandfather made this a bit more slow paced than other books with a coastal setting and environmental concerns. 
What I really think: Hand this to readers who like environmental tales with a marine focus like 
Davies' Manatee Rescue, Berne's  A Dolphin Named Star or Morris and Brown's Willa and the Whale.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review of both books. Lots of similarities between the two with the inclusion of grandparents and Florida settings.