Excerpt from The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Last True Poets of the Sea

by Julia Drake

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake X
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
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  • Published:
    Oct 2019, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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The Last True Poets of the Sea

The Lyric Aquarium had been imposing in my memory, but when I saw it that morning, the first word that came to mind was rinky-dink. The building was octagonal, once painted blue but now weathered the pale gray color of vitamins I'd gagged on as a kid. Inside, the foyer smelled of salt water and rot, and the ticket desk, a cheap folding table, was coated in a fine layer of dust. The main room's focal point was a touch tank that housed nurse sharks and sea cucumbers; another circular tank held rays and skates doing slow, morose laps. A marine skeleton hung from the ceiling, its bones suspended by fishing line. A sickly whale? An extra-large tuna? It was a little embarrassing that I didn't have a clue.


A white-haired white lady in a black fleece and tall brown rain boots was striding toward me, trailed by a wolfish dog. This must have been Joan, the aquarium's director. She broke into a huge smile as she reached for my hand.

"Oh my goodness, hello! You're so tall! So grown-up!" she told me, pumping my arm so hard my bicep shook. "I know it's been a few years, but wow!"

"I'm sorry. Have we met?"

"Oh, you wouldn't remember, you were just a kid."

I looked between the dog and Joan and realized I had met them. I mean, I'd only been thirteen, and more focused on the hot volunteer than her, but—

"How're your folks? And your brother! You know I still have a poem he wrote during one of our Critters of the Deep workshops? It's hanging in my office. From the small sea snail to the great blue whale, everyone has feelings."

Apparently, I walked in Sam's intellectual shadow in not one state, but two.

"We're so happy to have you. Our very own Rudolph! Your grandmother was such a lovely woman. She helped me with research from time to time."

"My last name's actually Larkin. My dad's."

"You'll always be a Rudolph here. You're the closest thing we have to a local celebrity."

The dog barked. "Oh, hush, Boris, life isn't a zero-sum game. He gets jealous," she whispered conspiratorially. I offered her a weak smile. Boris could totally have the local celebrity title.

Joan handed me an informational packet labeled LYRIC ­AQUARIUM AND OCEANOGRAPHIC EDUCATION CENTER TRAINING MANUAL and two electric-teal T-shirts with ASK ME HOW I'M SAVING MANATEES printed on the back. Before I could follow the shirts' instructions, Joan said, "Orion should be here any minute. He's our star employee—works here year-round—and he'll train you. Really, this is just so exciting. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for your ancestors!"

"Neither would I. Though maybe that'd be better for everyone."

She blinked, then burst out laughing. "What a card you are!" She chattered away about my schedule—"Just part-time, Tuesday through Friday, mostly be dealing with summer camp field trips, though we haven't had a lot going on, I'm sorry to say... . Frankly it's been a dead zone, there's a flashier aquarium about thirty minutes south and they just built a penguin exhibit, so ..."

I flipped through the packet, skimming paragraphs on marine biomes, longshore drift, and thermohaline circulation. An entire section was devoted to "Maine's Natural Wonders" and listed the limestone cliffs of Fabian's Bluff; Old Sow Whirlpool, the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere; the Desert of Maine. (Not a true desert, but a tract of glacial silt!) Did I really have to learn all this?

"Do you guys still do tide-pooling classes?" I asked. "I remember liking those with my brother."

"Weellll." Joan's voice grew squeaky. "There've been some cuts to programming in the past few years. We've lost some funding, sadly, and a few of our educational programs have fallen by the wayside as a result. That's why we're closed on Mondays, you see."

Excerpted from The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake. Copyright © 2019 by Julia Drake. Excerpted by permission of Disney-Hyperion. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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