The tidal pull of Eagar’s swashbuckling pirate adventure has its source in 11-year-old Fidelia Quail. The daughter of acclaimed marine biologists, Fidelia takes an active role in her parents’ work, even inventing the research submarine they employ to explore the ocean depths. After the perilous and unpredictable “Undertow,” a deadly current, destroys the submersible while her parents are cataloguing sharks, a grief-stricken and guilt-ridden Fidelia moves in with her Aunt Julia, a librarian. Tension escalates when Merrick the Monstrous, captain of the Jewel, kidnaps Fidelia in order to retrieve treasure from the ocean floor with her not-yet-completed creation, “the Water-Eater.” Pitting Merrick against a corrupt admiral, Eagar (Hour of the Bees) makes the complicated pirate (who “spoke like a man with nothing to lose”) both threatening and sympathetic, giving him a romantic past. Set in a world that combines futuristic and historical elements to intriguing effect (Fidelia wears a pinafore, but knows her way around “Hydro-Scanners” and other tech), this is an exciting maritime adventure with a strong, layered heroine. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (Oct.)Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's last name.
Eagar’s novel never lags or loses heart, and it’s irresistibly baited with a cursed treasure hoard, danger, and candy. Flashback chapters fill in important backstory on Merrick, and readers will adore Fidelia for the passionate and clever heroine she is. Refreshingly, women are as likely to captain a ship as plunder it in this fictional world, a small but enriching detail. Earnest and exciting, this swashbuckling voyage of self-discovery sparkles even when threatened by the stormiest seas.
—Booklist (starred review)
The tidal pull of Eager’s swashbuckling pirate adventure has its source in 11-year-old Fidelia Quail...Set in a world that combines futuristic and historical elements to intriguing effect (Fidelia wears a pinafore, but knows her way around “Hydro-Scanners” and other tech), this is an exciting maritime adventure with a strong, layered heroine.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This fantastical tale, set in an indeterminate time and place, is chock-full of humor and swaggering pirate adventure...An old-fashioned, rip-roaring adventure featuring a smart, independent girl.
The tale makes an effective read-aloud...More than just another lively pirate adventure, this novel celebrates science, invention, and the pursuit of knowledge while sensitively exploring loss.
—School Library Journal
This suspenseful novel is a great middle school read and yields a happy ending as Fidelia pursues her dream of becoming a famous scientist like her parents.
—School Library Connection
Fidelia’s emotional compass is sensitively and accessibly handled in the midst of her harrowing adventures on a dodgy craft...Fidelia’s problem-solving skills as well as her courage and ambition mark her out as a worthy hero for budding scientists and armchair adventurers.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Race to the Bottom of the Sea" has something for every reader: science, beautiful imagery, treasure, danger, self-discovery, robotics, all things pirates and so much candy.
This beautifully written and unusual novel features an 11-year-old shark-loving marine inventor named Fidelia Quail...Eagar, author of "Hour of the Bees," has crafted a thrilling narrative that is part pirate adventure, part love story and part coming-of-age tale.
Gr 4–6—Fidelia is still mourning the death of her marine scientist parents when she is kidnapped by pirate Merrick the Monstrous. Fidelia, a shark enthusiast and brilliant inventor, must complete her underwater breathing device, the Water-Eater, or die retrieving Merrick's treasure from deep in the sea. Fidelia is just one of many strong female characters, including her "librarian supreme" Aunt Julia and the pirate Bloody Elle. This adventure is full of action, humor, and amusing details: Fidelia's steampunk contraptions, a pirate ship candy stash, and lively dialogue (at one point, Merrick's navy nemesis calls him a "dung-munching varmint."). The tale makes an effective read-aloud, though some of the more violent scenes may not appeal to younger readers; more than one character points a gun at Fidelia, and pirates are stabbed in the neck and thrown overboard. A thread of grief adds depth to the book as Fidelia learns, from her careful observations of both sea and human life, that death is a natural component. VERDICT More than just another lively pirate adventure, this novel celebrates science, invention, and the pursuit of knowledge while sensitively exploring loss.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library
Sometimes a hearty dose of escapism is exactly what's needed for trying times.Fidelia Quail, a white 11-year-old in a pinafore with "a knack for inventing," is happily assisting with her marine biologist parents' shark research when they drown in a storm. Fidelia feels responsible—she'd built the submarine that Dr. and Dr. Quail were in when the storm struck their beloved Arborley Island. But it was the Undertow, a well-known ocean current, that was to blame. Within days, Fidelia's life is upended when she's kidnapped by a pirate named Merrick the Monstrous, a man with "skin so pale it was almost lavender." The captain and his crew, a woman with "white-blond hair" called Bloody Elle and "dark-skinned" Cheapshot Charlie, believe that she can retrieve their sunken treasure. Onboard a battle-worn ship called the Jewel with only a knapsack full of sweets, Fidelia tackles her situation head-on. She tweaks another of her inventions, a filtration system she calls a "Water-Eater," to survive the dive. This fantastical tale, set in an indeterminate time and place, is chock-full of humor and swaggering pirate adventure. There's romance, too, as Merrick turns out to be a pirate with a heart of gold and a secret past with Fidelia's aunt Julia. An old-fashioned, rip-roaring adventure featuring a smart, independent girl. (Fiction. 9-13)