In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Monday, February 15, 2016

BEAST OF CRETACEA by Todd Strasser

copyright date: October 2015
primarily marketed for: young adults (6th grade and up)

The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser is just the book the world needed.  Strasser’s futuristic retelling of Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, is a dystopian adventure story that is filled with heart. 

The story opens with protagonist, Ishmael, waking up on a ship on Cretacea after being transported from Earth, which is covered by the Shroud and becoming a less and less viable home for humans.  Ishmael hopes to earn enough money hunting sea creatures called terrafins to pay the way for his foster parents and brother to join him. 

Readers get details about Ishmael’s past in chapters that flashback to his life on Earth.  These chapters develop Ishmael’s relationship with his foster family and solidify our understanding of his motivation to be successful aboard the ship. 

However, there is much more to Ishmael than his past.  He forms strong bonds with his fellow new arrivals, each having a compelling story of his/her own, and we immediately care about the fate of each and every one of Ishmael’s companions. 

When the ship’s captain—Captain Ahab—refuses to allow his crew to spend time hunting easy prey in favor of tracking and capturing an enormous white terrafin to which he previously suffered a great loss, Ishmael has to make decisions for himself, his companions, and his far away family. 

My love of this book—its unique setting, its adventurous men vs sea creature plot, and its man vs nature conflict—came as a total surprise to me.  I tend to favor realistic fiction over science fiction, classics, and dystopian literature.  The heart of the characters Strasser has created and artfully developed in Beast of Cretacea, and his thoughtful, provocative theme (call to action, perhaps?) won me over completely. 

Get your hands on this book—now. 


  1. The mystical way you describe the ocean reminds me of your book talk on 'Greyson'. The ocean gives me anxiety in the best way. There's a fear in it's vast depths and power, but you can't help but stand in awe of it. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book!