Written by a marine biologist, the stories in “Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians” combine elements of marine conservation, anthropomorphized ocean critters, and teenage magical abilities to delight young readers.

As an ocean lover, have you ever wished you could camouflage like an octopus? Or to possess webbed fingers and toes to help you swim? Maybe you’ve dreamt of the amazing conversations you could have if you could talk to sharks, dolphins, or fish. Marine biologist and author Ellen Prager has created a world that offers a glimpse into those alluring possibilities. Written for junior readers, the three-book Tristan Hunt series, which includes Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, takes readers through multiple marine-life rescue adventures, embarked upon by the clumsy lead character and his companions.

Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians

In Ellen Prager’s fantasy world, some teens have amazing abilities that mimic those of ocean critters, such as the ability to speak with sharks or camouflage like an octopus. A top-secret school identifies these rare teens from among their normal counterparts and trains them at their hidden facility.

Once the teens master their fantastical aquatic skills, they can fight various oceanic villains, not unlike real-world people who exploit and harm our oceans: people severely overfishing, capturing marine animals for aquariums or marine parks, polluting, or using robotic-control mechanisms on critters to force them to do their bidding. (That last one might not be happening — yet).

Readers learn about marine life and real-world threats without even realizing that they’re being educated. The stories are imaginative and appealing to a range of ages, and are a pleasant mixture of fact and fiction. The tales are reminiscent of Harry Potter with a smattering of X-Men mutation-like abilities — there may even be a touch of James Bond in there, too.  While I was reading them, the stories reminded me of an underwater Harry Potter; I later saw that Sylvia Earle said much the same thing. Great minds think alike.

While the teens’ gifts are of course imaginary, most of the marine threats are unfortunately not. At the end of the books, Prager reviews both what she embellished on and what was entirely accurate. She also discusses her experiences across the world, which have influenced the stories she tells.

The books feature an interactive website with various activities, images, video and additional learning opportunities for young readers.  While I did enjoy the books, Prager wrote them for kids 8- to-12-years old, or grades three to seven. If you know a young reader with even remote interest in marine life, add these books to their reading list.  Superhuman abilities, top-secret schools, spy-like rescue missions — it’s unlikely they’ll be disappointed, and they’ll learn something at the same time.

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