Cry of the Sea, by D.G. Driver

Multicultral Children's Book Day is coming 1/27/16! A while back, reviewers like me signed up to be matched with multicultural books, and  links to all the book reviews resulting will start going up on that site today.
My book to read was Cry of the Sea, by D.G. Driver, an upper MG/lower YA mermaid story with an unusual twist--if you love mermaids, but aren't keen on truly fantastical fantasy, or really wild sci fi, and if you like reading about high school social drama and fighting for the environment, this is one you might like lots.
Juniper Sawfeather, like many teenaged girls, is being pressured by her parents.  They assume she will follow in their footsteps as environmental activists, and they ignore her (really immaturely) when she makes efforts to chart her own path toward marine biology. Being roped into all her parents' activism hasn't done much for Juniper's popularity at school, either--the mean beautiful girls, present in full stereotypical force, think she's a looser.
But then Juniper finds mermaids.  When she and her father rush to the scene of an oil spoil on the Oregon coast, there they are, three of them--half fish, half human in appearance, their gills choked with oil.  Two of the mermaids die, but one lives, and Juniper and her father rush the creature to the lab that's bracing to receive the influx of oil spill victims.
Juniper sees a person when she meets the mermaid's eyes, and as she enters the mermaid's tank (in scuba gear) to help clean her off, their minds meet too, not in full on telepathy, but more general communication.  And so when the mermaid mysteriously vanishes from the lab, along with its chief scientist, Juniper is desperate to find out what's happening.
After her video footage of the mermaid goes viral, the popular kids become Juniper's unlikely, and not quite trustworthy, allies, in a confrontation with scientists working for the folks responsible for the oil spill.  Can a bunch of kids use the power of the press (and the internet) to shape what happens to Juniper's mermaid, and others of her kind?

Obviously the mermaids tilt this story into the realm of speculative fiction, but the tone and Juniper's point of view keep it feeling very realistic.   Young environmentalists (I'm thinking eighth graders) will enjoy sharing Juniper's anger at the perpetrators of the oil spill, her fascination with the mermaid, and her nascent relationship with the really cute college intern who seems to be returning her interest very nicely....There's no sex or swearing, so it's appropriate for that age.   The social drama part of the book didn't quite convince me, but may well ring truer for the intended audience.   I myself would have liked more exploration of what sort of creature/person the mermaid actually was; she doesn't actually get much page time.

Apart from generic social awkwardness and environmental activism, Juniper is different from the other kids in that she is half  Native American; her dad is Chinook.   She herself does not identify as Chinook in any meaningful way, nor does the author provide a convincing cultural context or sense of Juniper's identity as a Native person.   As a result, I am not comfortable recommending this book specifically as a window or a mirror into the experience of a Northwest Coast Native teenager.
In Juniper's own words, when her father tells her a "legend of our people" she thinks to herself "I hated to be lectured about my father's people. I felt as much part American Indian as I did part elephant." (p  75)  Bits of information about Chinook identity and culture seemed a bit off to me, and I didn't feel the author had done much in depth research, or talked to any Chinook tribal members. 
Her description of the Potlatch as casting material goods into the water is very odd; this doesn't fit with standard accounts of what the Potlatch is.  Mr. Sawfeather is supposed to be an activist for the tribe but his activism is unspecified;  the Chinook Nation has for the last few years been engaged in an intense struggle for recognition, which would have solidified his identity if that specific had been included.  Also the book ends with a threat to Chinook lands; not being federally recognized, the Chinook Nation has no reservation, so I'm not sure what the "tribal lands" would be.  Kind of minor points, but there was just not enough here to really conventionalize Juniper has a believably Chinook father.
And I found this bit of banter, with the cool beautiful boy who is the romantic interest/hero offensive, more offensive than Juniper does--
"I sighed and rolled my eyes and moved away from Carter enough to be dad-approved.  "Ugh."
"Ah, there's that American Indian in you, Miss Sawfeather," Carter laughed.
I smacked him.  "That I so inappropriate.  I take away your coolness points."
"Sorry," he said, but he was still snickering."  p 85 
Carter gets to keep golden boy status, despite this nasty remark.
My general feeling is that the father's Native American identity is there to add weight to the environmental concerns of the book, and it's more window-dressing than anything else.  So I would not recommend reading this book just for its multicultural aspects; it disappointed me in that regard.

Do head over to the Multicultral Children's Book Day page for more!
Here's a bit more information about it:

The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The co-creators of  this great event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from /Jump Into a Book

Thanks to all the sponsers:

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Hosts; you can visit the links below or see them all  here.

All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share,Educators Spin on it,Growing Book by Book,Imagination Soup,I’m Not the Nanny,InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen,Mama Smiles,Multicultural Kid Blogs,Spanish Playground

And finally, there is a Classroom Reading Challenge. This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children's book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.

What we could really use some help with is spreading the word to your teacher/librarian/classroom connections so we can get them involved in this program. Here are words you could spread:

Teachers! Earn a FREE #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books #teacherlife 

The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun! Teachers can earn a free diversity book! #teachers, #books


  1. thx for sharing...posted to all social media!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I've read this book too and loved it! I am excited to start D.G Driver's second book in the series soon. Happy Multicultural Children's Book Day!

  3. The book sounds like many "multicultural" books that struggle to present cultural information and an engaging story. So, a person needs to read many books to become well informed and this one is a start! Thanks!

  4. The premise sounds really cool, but it's a shame that the character's cultural identity isn't engaged with too much. :/ Do you know if the author's Indian herself?

    1. I didn't see anything when I went looking on the internet that suggested she was.

  5. Thank you for such a thoughtful review!

  6. Thanks for sharing! It''s sound very good


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