Tide Pool Troubles
Tide Pool Troubles
“It’s been so hard since all the shells have gone missing. If I don’t find a new, bigger shell, I won’t be able to grow. It’s dangerous without a shell. I’m not protected from predators!”
“You have no idea where they’ve gone?”
“Don’t worry, Fred!” “We’re on the case!”
Featuring a satisfying blend of mystery and science, “Shelby & Watts” is a new graphic novel series young readers will enjoy investigating. Shelby, an amateur detective fox, and Watts, her encyclopedia-loving, badger friend, solve environmental whodunits with aplomb. These charming “Planetary Investigators” offer their ecologically sound services to animals in need.
In the series opener, Tide Pool Troubles, Shelby and Watts receive a letter penned by Fred. H. Crab. In the urgently written plea for help, the crustacean explains his crisis: “My shell has become too small and I can’t find a big enough shell to move into. There isn’t one ANYWHERE on the beach!” Shelby and Watts pack their bags and head to the seashore to crack the case.
The inquisitive text models the scientific method of investigation. In their quest to solve the mystery, the erudite sleuths observe, record, question and deduce. Shelby and Watts interview several characters at the beach. Comic panels capture the action, and speech bubbles convey the easy-to-follow conversations. Full-page profiles offer closeup portraits and personality traits of Arty (a rhinoceros and seaside collector whose favourite color is green); Cindy (a seagull whose favorite pastime is surfing waves and favorite color is sky blue); and Fred (the woebegone hermit crab whose current mood is “very squished” and favorite color is red). In his ever-present notebook, Watts jots down clues: “1. Hermit crabs live down the shore, where the good shells are. 2. Shell shortage.” Also sprinkled throughout the pages are “Watt’s Fun Facts”, including noteworthy tidbits such as, “Hermit crabs often live in large colonies of 100 or more!”
When “The Case of the Missing Shells” is closed, a double-page spread recaps the clues leading up to the final solution, encouraging a close re-examination and re-reading of the previous pages. An explanation and illustration of the “hermit crab shuffle” clearly illustrates the importance of shells in a beach’s ecosystem and crab’s life. A final page of “Earth-Saving Tips” offers practical, concrete advice for youth, like “Never take shells or other beach stuff from the beach, as they could be homes for hermit crabs and other ocean creatures. Even rocks can be homes to barnacles”; “Eat seafood from sustainable sources”; and “Organize a beach clean-up day.”
Ashlyn Anstee’s colourful, animated cartoon illustrations have cinematic flair. Comic panels effectively propel the narrative forward, and there are many details to pore over. The well-developed characters have quirky personalities that shine through. Perfect for emerging readers, the storyline of Tide Pool Troubles is organized into seven short chapters featuring large type, lots of repetition and visual clues.
“Shelby & Watts” is a terrific graphic novel series that boosts and builds confident beginning readers and budding environmentalists.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, Ontario.