Monday, January 20, 2020

The Line Tender

The Line Tender by Kate Allen. Grades 5-8. Dutton, 2019. 384 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.

So, you know I'm getting ready for Allen County Public Library's Mock Newbery discussion this weekend and The Line Tender was the last book on the list that I hadn't read yet. It's been getting major buzz all year, but I hadn't picked it up yet.

Well, friends. I'm here to beg you not to make the same mistake I did. Pick it up now, please.

What it's about: 

Sharks have started appearing in the waters outside Lucy's coastal Massachusetts town. And for Lucy this news hits closer to home than most. Because Lucy's late mother was a marine biologist. Lucy's mother swam with sharks.

Lucy is not a scientist, preferring to draw instead of learning facts or experimenting, but when she  catches a re-airing of an old TV interview with her mother on the news, she becomes fascinated by her mother's work. And when tragedy strikes Lucy again, she becomes determined to find out more about her mother's last unfinished research project and help see it completed.

To do so, she'll need to grab the line that connects some of the important people in her life - her father, a fisherman, and her elderly widower neighbor - each tied to the project in different ways.

My thoughts:

This is a book that takes a deep dive into grief and the multitudes of ways that people experience it and live with it. Lucy's mother's death is several years old, but it still takes Lucy under at unexpected times. And this is a book that acknowledges that the way to live with grief is to live with it and to keep on living one day at a time, even when you think you can't. And it manages to portray all of this without becoming maudlin or depressing. It's an incredibly moving story with some very poignant moments, but it never feels overwhelming.

This is a book that's essential for some kids. Lucy's story will speak to kids who have experienced loss. It's a book you must have on your library shelves. And I don't think its appeal stops there. Although living with grief is a huge theme in the book, it's also very much a story about the natural world and the work that scientists do. Young marine biologists who can handle a quiet, serious story will find much to appreciate here.


This book reminded me most of Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, a great favorite of mine growing up. Jess and Leslie become fast friends and build a magical, imaginary world together called Terabithia where they hang out until tragedy strikes. Both books explore loss and grief in poetic, moving text.

Another book that explores loss and also includes research of marine animals is The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown, 2017). After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy becomes convinced that the true cause of death was a rare jellyfish sting and she sets out to prove it.