Sunday, October 9, 2016

Blog Tour: Chasing at the Surface by Sharon Mentyka

It's fall in Washington state, the chum salmon are running in Dyes Inlet, and Marisa Gage, 12, along with her best friend Lena are out in a rowboat catching as many as salmon they can.  Suddenly, something strange is spotted in the water.  It turns out that a pod of 19 orca whales have made their way into the inlet to feed on the salmon.

For Marisa, the whales really bring some very difficult feelings of loss and abandonment to the surface.  Her mother had suddenly decided one day that she had to leave for reasons unknown to Marisa and her dad, causing their lives to turn upside down.  No longer able to afford their house, Marisa and her dad have moved into a houseboat.

Hurt and angry, Marisa has essentially shut her dad out of her life, and throws her mother's letters away unread.  But it was her mother who had been so fascinated by whales and who had taught her everything she knows about them. In fact, when they had spotted a new baby whale on vacation one year, Marisa had been allowed to name it, deciding to call it Muncher.

By day 3 of the whale sighting, a group of marine biologists is expected and Marisa's science teacher asks for volunteers to help them monitor the whales.  Marisa decides not to, even though she knows more about whales than most of the kids in her class, but Lena signs them both up anyway.

Now, all the talk and excitement about the whales is bringing up more and more memories that Marisa would rather not think about, made all the more difficult because this is the pod of which Muncher is part.  And Marisa knows that while there is still plenty of salmon for the whales to feed on, it's the end of the salmon run and given how many they must eat per day, they will soon start to run out and if they don't make their way out of Dyes Inlet, they will be in a dangerous life or death situation.

But when Marisa unintentionally hurts the feelings of a classmate and his special needs younger brother, and her dad finally tells her what he knows about her mother's childhood, Marisa suddenly realizes how angry she has been and begins to see things differently.

As the whales remain in the inlet, they are surrounded by crowds of boats of all sizes containing whale watchers, upsetting the whales and making it more and more difficult for them to find their way out of the inlet, and worse, the watchers simply ignore pleas to turn off motors and back away.

By day 30, the orca's situation is critical. Is it already too late to save the this pod of whales that Marisa has become so attached to, an attachment that somehow has so much to do with her feelings about her mother?

I was really excited to read Chasing at the Surface.  I've always been fascinated by whales and whale behavior, although so sad when something goes wrong, as it seems to do more and more frequently.

But Sharon Mentyka has written a beautiful coming of age novel that explores the meaning of family, courage, and forgiveness, weaving these themes around a family of displaced orca whales mirroring the kind of displacement that Marisa feels now that she and her family also find themselves in unfamiliar waters.

Interestingly, I found that neither Marisa's or the whale's story overshadowed the other.  It helps that chapters concerning the whales are clearly indicated - Orca Day 1, Orca Day 2, etc., as are chapters relating to Marisa situation. And along the way, young readers will learn much about orca whales, their family structure, and their behavior, though without any of it feeling pedantic, as well as the importance of animal conservation.

I found Chasing at the Surface to be a multi-dimensional novel that explores the mystery of nature and what happens when people interfere with it, but it also looks at nature's ability to help humans heal their wounds.  Highly recommended.

Chasing at the Surface is based on an actual event in which a subpod of 19 whales swam into Dyes Inlet in 1997.  It is every bit as fascination to read as this novel is and you can find out much more about it at Dyes Inlet Orcas - Ten Years Later.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, WestWinds Press

Be sure to visit the other stops on the Chasing at the Surface Blog Tour

October 2, 2016        Interview          Girls Who Reads
October 3, 2016        Interview          Gidget Girls Reading
October 4, 2016        Review             The Book Faerie
October 5, 2016        Review             I Read Until Dawn
October 6, 2016        Review             Kitty Cat at the Library
October 7, 2016        Interview          Provato Events
October 9, 2016        Review             Randomly Reading
TBD                          Interview          ALSC Blog
October 14, 2016      Guest Posting   Kirby Larson's Blog

1 comment:

  1. Hello Alex, this is something I want to read. Like you I've always been fascinated by whales and again like you, very sad when something goes wrong. Thank you for adding the link to Dyes Inlet, I'm going there now.


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