Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: Terrors of the Deep

I loved books as a kid, I still love books but now I have so much less free time to read fun novels. Boo has picked up on my love and reads a lot. We read every night and a lot of times in the car he is in the backseat reading. I keep the backseat always stocked with comic books and novels.

Another one of my passions is the ocean. My M.Sc. is in marine biology/biochemistry, I've been SCUBA diving over half my life and I often find myself pursing marine biology journeys to read abstracts. So needless to say when Boo brought home the book Terrors of the Deep from the schools Scholastic book fair this spring I was incredibly excited! It has a shark on it! And the write up mentions deep sea submersibles! Sign me up!

It's rated grades 3 - 6. They did not shy away from long scientific words (awesome!) so he had a little bit of trouble but he read a chapter a night in about 15ish minutes. Unlike some of our other chapter books, this book is full color. There are a few different types of pages. All the story pages have the submarines location in the water column along one side. Some of the story pages have pictures (not drawings, actual photographs) of oceanic organisms. There are also factual pages, in green, that talk about a variety of things from individual creatures, hydrothermal vents, sub history, etc.

Yet with all it's that set up, I only gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. There were a couple of problems with it and one gigantic one that made it impossible for me to give it the 5 stars I wanted to when we first started reading.

A minor issue with it is the complete lack of female characters. Seriously this is for grades 3 - 6, this is the perfect time to introduce that scientists aren't just guys. The 3 main characters are Dom, Jake and Nick. Minor characters are Raoul, Ben, Karl and Jess. The only female character is on the boat and has 2 sentences. Why couldn't Jess be in the sub?

My major issue with the book was the ending. Up until the ending the book was largely accurate, though I find it doubtful that in one trip they could see THAT much diversity.. but at the end they totally ruined it. So if you do not want to know the "twist" at the end stop reading.

Seriously stop now...


At the end, they are ascending and the SONAR shows a large object.. too large.. about 100 feet. Boo's reaction was "OO BLUE WHALE! It's gonna be a blue whale!!!!" Then as the object got closer it formed into the shape a shark. They had accidentally stumbled upon a real living MEGALODON..  at this point my head repeatedly hit headboard.

The megalodon circles and attacks and then gets distracted blah blah blah. All I could think as he read the last chapter was WHY did they ruin an awesome book?! Yes, I know this book is labeled as fiction, but up until that point everything had been REAL! We both learned things, he got excited about creatures he had never seen before. I felt that by dding in a prehistoric creature for one chapter to add some "excitement" the author was saying that scientific research was not exciting and needed to be spiced up by the new catch phrase.

Ever since Animal Planet's mocku-mentary on the Megalodon, people have believed that there actually is a prehistoric shark roaming the oceans. This book only feeds that fire.. and that fire does not need to be flamed it needs to be stomped out with prejudice. Boo came home from school afterwards and told me MOM The Megalodon is still alive so-and-so told me!! An incredible shark scientists I follow on Twitter (@WhySharksMatter seriously follow him) has said repeatedly that when he talks to school kids someone always asks about the megalodon and he has to clear it up. It infuriates me that an education companies like DK and Scholastic would promote this idea, even in fiction.

This book could have been perfect, it could have excited kids in a believable and realistic fashion to get into marine biology. Deep sea exploration is still an area of great mystery, they really do discover new organisms a lot of the time and the new critters are always incredibly insane. To get an idea of the diversity that truly exists check out this incredible review of the actual deep sea creatures that graced Aquaman 31's cover.

DK Publishing really missed an opportunity here to show how awesome real life science really is.

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