This cumulative tale focuses on the environmental impact of our garbage, or the mess that we made. Four children in a little boat float in a sea of nets, bottles, plastic and more. As they watch, a seal is caught in a broken net, a turtle is trapped in a plastic bag, and the landfill near the water grows and grows. Then the book takes a turn and shows how people, large and small, can make a real difference by cleaning up the beach, recycling, using clean energy, protesting problematic fishing, and cleaning up the oceans.
It is the cumulative format that really works here. Lord never makes it into a towering and overwhelming “This is the house that Jack built” sort of story. She instead plays with the format in a shorter structure, creating a clear cause and effect for young readers both in the destruction of our oceans and in cleaning them up. The result is a cumulative tale that reads aloud really well and smoothly. Her twist of showing how people can help is a call to action that clearly shows how even children can make a difference in our world.
The art is particularly effective when showing underwater scenes and the huge amount of garbage in the ocean. The light from above illuminates the struggles of ocean life and yet also shows the lingering beauty of the habitat and the blue green waters.
A strong environmental message about our oceans and our responsibility. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Agnes has only ever lived in Red Creek with her younger siblings, attending the Prophet’s sermons, and following his rules. Her mother has withdrawn into her room, not even attending church any more. Only Agnes’ sister Beth can get her mother to even eat any more. Agnes is the devoted sister, working to keep her siblings safe and never breaking the rules. No one knows that she has been sneaking insulin into Red Creek for her youngest brother, Ezekiel, to keep him alive. Beth spends much of her time dreaming of escaping Red Creek and kissing a boy. But soon the world around them changes with a virus that brings the end of civilization. The Prophet uses the virus to his advantage, facing the reckoning and putting everyone in Red Creek at risk. Agnes must figure out how to flee Red Creek to keep Ezekiel safe while Beth finds herself trapped in the nightmare that the Prophet has created. The two sisters each face the end of the world, one with the faith, power and abilities to create a new future for everyone.
McWilliams has written the perfect pandemic read, a book that takes all of our fears of our current pandemic and multiplies them into true horror as the virus hits animals and people alike. The world of Red Creek is haunting and shocking, the cult exactly the right place to find Agnes and Beth as society crumbles. McWilliams uses the cult’s brutality, patriarchy and abuse to create a crucible for these two young women as they find their way forward.
Beth and Agnes are marvelous characters, quite different and yet both wrestling with their fundamentalist upbringing and struggling to leave it behind in ashes. Yet their duty to family and the world itself is what keeps them focused and drives their choices in the apocalyptic world they find themselves in.
A dark and harrowing mix of cults, pandemics and faith-based magic. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.