Kate Allen: The Line Tender (Penguin Random House 2019)
One summer day, the first great white shark arrived in Rockport. This sets off a chain of events. Lucy and her best friend Fred are working on a summer school assignment. Lucy draws very well, and Fred is interested in all things scientific. The shark reminds everyone of Lucy’s marine biologist mother, who researched sharks until one day she suddenly died. In Rockport, everyone’s life is connected to the sea. Lucy’s father is a detective, but he also dives and helps the lifeguards. After another tragedy, Lucy becomes interested in her mother’s last project and visits her old colleagues to understand the purpose and importance of the research. Lucy is the link and comfort for those close to her.
The theme of the book is sad: it deals with loss, yet it is hopeful. It shows how we can overcome difficult times in our lives together. It also has a very important message about nature. It tells how little we know about some species, such as the great white shark, and how fear of the unknown clouds our vision. Everything has an important role in the ecosystem, the disappearance of a single species can upset the balance. What I liked the best was that the characters live in such harmony with nature that they can even accept things that are sad for them. As Rachel Carson writes (the author of Silent Spring) at the beginning of the book, whoever accepts nature as it is can draw great strength and comfort from the fact that spring comes after winter and dawn after night.
Kate Allen loved to make up stories from a very young age, but she could express herself better in writing than speaking until two of her teachers convinced her that it was okay to make mistakes. She also studied writing in college, wrote several short stories, and then, when she started working as a teacher and became a mother, she began writing her first book, The Line Tender.
The book’s illustrations were made by Xingye Lin, whose drawings of the shark make us feel as if we are flipping through Lucy’s notebook.