Title: The Walking Fish
Author: Rachelle Burk & Kopel Burk
Publisher: TumbleHome Learning
Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
This middle grade novel, aimed at students in grades 4-7, got off to a slow start for me. There was a typo on the first page. And the “action” starts with a collection of groan-worthy puns that define the relationship between the main character, Alexis (“Minnow”) and her fingerless, fish-loving grandfather who doesn’t make an actual appearance in the book until the last couple pages.
The puns continue past the first page but the slow part is almost immediately replaced with a fast-paced adventure. First, Alexis finds the fish in a pond outside her family’s summer cabin at Glacial Lake. Then, she and her friend, Darshan, are immediately drawn into the mystery of where the walking, blind fish came from. The truth is pursued through boat and helicopter rides, cave exploration and spelunking, with a greedy, back-stabbing, chairman of the the Environmental Science Department at Glacial Lake University (in other words, the boss) thrown in for good conflict.
The science in this book is accurate, well presented, and not overwhelming. The narrative is clear and Rachel Burke does a good job of incorporating interesting characters that challenge Alexis as a friend, daughter and scientists while also introducing her to the first twinges of romance. But the best character, by far, is Alexis herself who is fearless and relentless in her pursuit of the truth – all initiated by an authentic grief that accompanies the death of “her fish”.
The ending was not completely satisfying or realistic. Why doesn’t Alexis, after being so feisty and forthcoming throughout the novel, tell everyone the truth about her scientific discovery when she’s rescued from the cave? It is only when two other students at the University come forward with the truth about the boss that everyone magically forgives Alexis. And then suddenly, everything is neatly tied up – and I mean everything, even the big mouth on the big boss – and Alexis gets the credit she deserves.
Minor quibbles aside, The Walking Fish is a great read. It will especially appeal to those with an interest in science – like me – but there is enough action and character development to keep everyone turning the page. Recommended.