Saturday, April 4, 2015

D: Mt. Desert Island and a Middle Grade Mystery

Day 4 of the Challenge, and D is for Mt. Desert Island. That would be Acadia National Park, and am I already messing around with the alphabet? You bet I am! Because even though the island is named for "Mt. Desert" there is no Mt. Desert. The French explorer Champlain called the place "île des monts déserts" or island of the bare (desert) mountains. The largest of those bare mountains is now known as Cadillac Mountain. Are you confused yet? Well, don't let it bother you. It's all just an excuse to bring you a review of Out of the Deep, a mystery for middle-grade readers with an environmental theme.


Title: Out of the Deep (Series: Mysteries in Our National Parks).
Author: Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson
Publisher:  The National Geographic Society, 2002.147 pages.
Source: The ever-beloved library

Publisher's Summary: 
(Note: during A to Z I am more inclined than usual just to give you what the publisher uses as a blurb).
Wildlife veterinarian Olivia Landon and her family are in Maine, investigating the mysterious strandings of marine mammals on the rocky beaches of Acadia National Park. With the family is 14-year-old Bindy Callister, a temporary ward who has been bullied by her older brother. Jack, Ashley, and Bindy come upon a baby humpback whale stranded in a rocky tidal pool and barely alive. During the complex rescue operation that follows, no one notices when Bindy wanders off. By the time Jack and Ashley find her, Bindy is acting very strange. She knows who' s causing the strandings but is afraid to tell. Jack and Ashley must get her to talk before more lives are endangered!

I've been meaning to track down and read some of these National Park mysteries ever since I first saw them in a park bookstore several years ago. I hadn't done it mostly because I rather feared they would be mediocre stories slapped together for a theme. (Well, and because some have rather sensational-literature-style covers). I should have known better. I don't find many bad books in the Parks bookstores. And if this is no great work of literature, it is a well-constructed mystery for kids, with just enough excitement to keep them reading, and some reasonably well-developed characters.

My second fear was that the ecological message would swamp the story. That is always a risk with a book that is written at least in part with a message, and make no mistake, this is a book with a message. But I have to say that the authors--one a recognized writer of adult mysteries, and the other a science writer--handled the material well. A kid reading this will learn a lot about whales and only occasionally may feel that he has wandered into a textbook. Far more often, she will feel like she'd better finish the chapter and make sure they all survive! 

A brief afterword by a whale researcher helps the kids sort out truth and fiction.

I think this book will appeal to both boys and girls from maybe age 8 or 9 and up. There is some rather real peril before the end, but you never really doubt that the kids will be okay, and I like that they take action themselves in a tight situation. This is a book that has less appeal to adults than children, I think--in other words, it hits pretty squarely on the audience it aimed for.

Full Disclosure: I checked Out of the Deep out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Now for a couple of photos to go with the setting:
The kids rescue a whale that is stranded on, I think, the beach in this photo. At any rate, they turn and see The Beehive behind them, and this is shot from the top of The Beehive!

Waiting for sunset on the bald top of Cadillac Mountain, largest of the "desert" mountains.

I also need to note and apologize here--we are on the road for the next week (getting new photos to share!) so my responses will be limited, as will my visits to other blogs. I'll do my best to catch up whenever I have internet access, though, so please don't give up on me!


  1. Im glad to hear that the books in the parks are good. I have tempted to buy one. I love the way you caught the shot in the book cover - nicely done.
    Happy A to Zing

    1. Well, that was a sample of one, but it made me think I'd read more, or recommend to kids.

  2. I see you are from Vancouver Island. I've been to Friday Harbor many times, love that area of the San Juan Islands!

    1. Actually, I'm from Vashon Island--farther south. But I love the San Juans, too!

  3. Replies
    1. Clearly you need to come visit. Though I'm about as far from Maine as you can get and remain in the continental US. But yes, you would like Maine. I'll meet you there...


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