Review of The Line Tender, by Kate Allen

The Line Tender

by Kate Allen

Dutton Children’s Books, 2019. 373 pages.
Review written August 28, 2019, from a library book

Fair warning: The Line Tender is very sad.

I’d heard that about it, and I thought it was because Lucy’s mother died five years before the book starts. Lucy’s mother was a biologist who loved to swim with sharks, and swimming with sharks wasn’t what killed her. Lucy’s reminded of her mother when one of their friends, a fisherman, has a great white shark swim into his net and brings it to the shore.

Lucy and her friend Fred get a good look at the shark. They’re going to put it into the Field Guide they are doing this summer for extra credit. Fred wants to be a biologist. He writes the words for the Field Guide. Lucy is an artist, she draws the pictures. She needs to get understand that shark in order to draw it well.

Lucy’s father is a diver for the police department and often works to rescue people. When a team is diving to search and rescue someone, the line tender holds the line above the surface and directs the search.

The great white shark disappears in the night, during a storm. So Fred and Lucy use her mother’s books to get more information about sharks.

All this happens, and then something terribly sad happens, too.

And it’s all handled well and written well. And the sadness is acknowledged, and people struggle with coping and healing. And there are setbacks and there is progress. It is realistic but hopeful, showing how people can continue on with resilience.

It’s all a beautiful book – and might be especially enjoyable for someone interested in marine biology and sharks – but I’m not sure if I’d ever want to recommend it to a child. I admit that I closed the book with a smile. But I would warn any reader – don’t read this book unless you’re prepared to be sad.

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