Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Reading and Writing with Dr. Ellen Prager

Books that excite kids, that’s the best kind of summer reading!  Sea creatures, high adventure and a likable main character make The Shark Whisperer a must-have for your family beach tote (if you’re a parent) or end-of-school recommendation (if you’re a teacher).  The author, Dr. Ellen Prager, shared writing and science activities in a recent phone interview.

“I wanted to write a novel that kids would enjoy,” said Dr. Prager, a marine scientist and author of 15 books.  The Shark Whisperer is the first in a five-book middle-grade series that combines strong storytelling and science.

The protagonist, Tristan, is a klutzy 12 year old who, along with fellow Sea Campers, learns to hone a secret talent in order to help the oceans.  Tristan can communicate with sharks, his friend Samantha understands whales and another boy can leap through the water like a dolphin.  They combine skills to solve a mystery involving the wanton destruction of sharks (a problem, alas, that is common in real life as well). 

In writing the book, Dr. Prager drew on her childhood love of the outdoors and many talks with kids, as an oceans educator.  She wanted to share “cool stuff” in a style that would best connect with her audience.

“I noticed that any time I mentioned sharks or moray eels, the kids’ eyes would light up,” she said with a laugh.  Kids also learn about bioluminescent worms, marine labs and the Bermuda Triangle.

After reading “The Shark Whisperer,” kids might try some of these writing, science and environmental activities:

* If you had a “sea talent” like Tristan and his friends, what might it be?  How would you use it to help the oceans?  You might tell or write down your own story.

* Find out more about your favorite sea creature.  If this creature is being harmed by ocean pollution or overfishing, write a letter or email to your congressional representative.

* Visit an aquarium and look for creatures in the book.

* Pick up trash at the beach or around waterways (rivers, streams).

* Eat only sustainable seafood.

* Visit the book’s website for photos, additional activities and facts and information about the next book in the series.

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