New fictional tale about sharks explores oceans’ real problems


Ellen Prager, a marine scientist, has written a new book for kids, “The Shark Whisperer.” (Rodrigo Garvla)
June 3, 2014

“The Shark Whisperer”

By Ellen Prager, ages 8 to 12,
274 pages.

A kid who swims with sharks?

That would be Tristan Hunt, the 12-year-old hero of “The Shark Whisperer.” He goes to a beach camp expecting sand and sunburn but discovers a new talent: communicating with sharks.

Like Tristan, the book’s author, Ellen Prager, has gotten very close to sharks; she has even petted them. Studying sharks and other sea creatures is part of her job as a marine scientist.

“Some of the adventures in this novel actually happened to me!” Prager said in a phone interview.

Prager will be talking about her book and about protecting the oceans this weekend at Hooray for Books in Alexandria and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. She is part of a worldwide celebration called World Oceans Day on June 8.

World Oceans Day “gives us a chance to appreciate the wonders of the sea,” Prager said. Across the globe, people will be working to help the oceans and other bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers and streams.

“Kids can do a lot,” Prager said. They can pick up litter, recycle and write e-mails and letters to members of Congress about damaged coral reefs and sea animals. Even cleaning up a little trash during a beach vacation makes a difference.

In “The Shark Whisperer,” Tristan and his friends at the beach camp learn how to use their special talents to help the oceans. When dead sharks appear close to a tiny island in the Bahamas, the camp director and kids must track down and stop the killer. They travel to a marine lab where Prager once worked. They even catch one of her favorite sights: an undersea “light show” of glowing worms.

Just as happens with real sharks, the book’s fictional sharks have a problem: They are being “finned.” A villain is cutting off their fins and tossing the bodies back in the sea. The fins are then sold to make an expensive soup that is popular in parts of Asia.

“Millions of sharks die like this every year,” Prager said. “This is very harmful to oceans because sharks are important predators.” They help keep the fish population in balance.

Prager is a big fan of the best-selling series of Percy Jackson books. Like author Rick Riordan, who mixes adventure with Greek myths, she writes books that include action and humor, science and sea creatures. “The Shark Whisperer” is the first novel in a series called “Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians.” If Tristan swims with sharks in this book, will he actually ride them in the next one, “The Shark Rider”? Find out next spring!

— Mary Quattlebaum

Meet the author

Ellen Prager will talk about her book and about protecting the oceans at these free events.

To learn more about World Oceans Day, visit www.worldoceansday.org. Always ask a parent before going online.

Where: Hooray for Books, 1555 King Street, Alexandria.

When: Saturday at 2 p.m.

More information: Call 703-548-4092 or visit www.hooray4books.com.

Where: National Museum of Natural History in the Q?rius Theater, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

When: Sunday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. (The museum’s Oceans Day event also includes an appearance by shark conservationist Madison Stewart and the world premiere of a movie about her called “Shark Girl.”)

More information: Call 202-633-1000 or visit mnh.si.edu.

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