Okay, not in the same book. But still, both topics are kind of irresistible, no?
Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, is a children’s book for 8-12-year-olds that was recommended by another blogster, although the way she described it gave away a crucial part of the plot, which was annoying because it ruined the surprise for me. Like describing The Crying Game as a transgender story–oh, thanks, you just gave away the whole thing. Anyhoo, I won’t do that.
Twelve-year-old Milo lives in a creaky old four-story inn with his parents. He’s just been released from school for Christmas break, and he’s looking forward to being with his parents and celebrating the holidays, as Christmas is a notoriously slow time for the inn, and there’s a terrific snowstorm that should keep anyone with any sense at home.
But visitors start arriving, annoying and disappointing Milo, as now his parents’ attention is taken up by being innkeepers. They call in the cook, who usually takes off Christmas break, and her daughter Meddy is the only person around who’s Milo’s age, so they start hanging out. The guests all seem to have some odd connection or interest in the history of the house, which intrigues Milo. The two start an investigation of their own, and the results are unpredictable and exciting.
One of the most effective facets of the story for me was Milo’s changing understanding of himself, and how he fits into his family, as he is an adopted child. He feels conflicted in a way I’m sure most adopted children go through, wondering if it’s ok to wonder about his birth parents or if even thinking about them is disloyal to his adoptive parents.
I also loved the creaky-old-house stuff, learning the history of who lived there before, and the significance of different design elements of this unique relic. Jaime Zollars’ illustrations are intricate (look at the that cover!) and fun.
Part coming-of-age story, part adventure, Greenglass House was a fun adventure with heart. Not as creepy as Doll Bones, so good for the kid who doesn’t like their adventures too icky or scary.
The Neptune Project, by Polly Holyoke, is a middle grade novel, so it’s aimed at a slightly older audience. It’s a dystopian tale, which is one of my favorite genres, for child or adult. In this version of the near future, much of the United States is now uninhabitable, thanks to global warming. There is famine and war as well, so it’s not a super fun place to live anymore.
Nere and her mother live near present-day Goleta, California, in a coastal fishing town, where they do important oceanic research, part of which involves a pod of dolphins. Nere can communicate telepathically with the dolphins, which, okay, c’mon! How cool is that? Yeah, I wanted The Day of the Dolphin (1973 film in which George C. Scott trains a pair of dolphins to talk) to be real, just like everyone else who saw that movie. My mom tells the story of seeing it with my Dad and asking him afterwards if he thought it could be real, if the dolphins could really talk. “Oh, yeah,” he said. Well, she wanted it to be true! I like to think of it as optimistic gullibility (because I inherited it from her). Anyhoo, tangent.
Nere’s world turns upside down when she finds out that her mother has genetically modified her and some other children in town so that they can live underwater. Nere is both excited and infuriated, since she had no say in this decision to change her life so dramatically.
Nere’s parents and a few others have realized that there is no future on land for humans, that the real future lies in the ocean, and more specifically, under the ocean. So they genetically modified their children to be able to–or rather, to have to–breathe water. Nere is part of an experiment called The Neptune Project.
Nere must quickly adjust to life under the sea to survive. She and the others have to be alert at all times for the dangers of both marine predators and the government police looking to arrest them. She is with a small group, and they must travel hundreds of miles at sea to meet up with the larger group that consists of the Neptune Project. For years she thought her father was dead (her mother kept the truth from her for her own safety), but now she knows he is the director of the Neptune Project, and she can hardly believe she will see him again when (if?) she makes it to the rendezvous.
The long journey is a brilliant adventure, with close escapes and life-and-death decisions that must be made on the spur of the moment. Nere doesn’t know most of the other children in her group, and yet she must decide who to trust almost immediately. Sometimes things turn out well, but not always. When one of the group is injured, they can’t simply go to a hospital, and blood in the water puts them all in danger of being attacked by sharks.
Used to being a bit of a loner, Nere is forced to find her place in a group, to find where she fits in this new life. She’s suddenly had to become completely self-reliant, with no adults around to fall back on.
This is a great adventure about fascinating possibilities, wonderful sci-fi for kids. And the sequel comes out next month!!