Book Discovery: Siona’s Tale by Barbara A. Liepe
Fun and thought-provoking, Siona’s Tale is not your ordinary sci-fi story.
—Amy Alcott,The BookWalker
Eleven-year-old Siona Seaton does not like the ocean, and the ocean does not like her back, at least she thinks so. The bottomless ocean is full of monsters waiting to get her, and even the beach, with rocks and tide pools to boot, does not welcome her presence. One day, out on an excursion with Dr. Seaton, her marine biologist mother, a ragworm bites Siona’s finger, and her theory is validated finally: the ocean and its residents do not care for her company. Fortunately for Siona, Dr. Seaton has the perfect antidote when they get home, hot chocolate, and a story.
A story from 521.2 million years ago when Earth was young and full of water sloshing and crashing on rocky surfaces, forming tide pools in the process. A tale about Siona, the sea squirt larva born by accident in one such tide pool.
Siona, the sea squirt larva, is unlike any other sea squirts in their tide pool home. Her head is too big, and her tail is too long. Aside from her biological “defects,” which other squirts are quick to point out and make fun of, Siona is phototactic, sometimes swimming up to the surface to enjoy the light. “Normal” squirts find that weird; they prefer the dark bottom of the pool, where they eagerly participate in the age-old tradition of their metamorphosis: they grow up from being tiny larvae; attach their heads to a rock of their choice; exchange their tails for siphons; get their tunic, the substance they use for protection; and reproduce the next generation of squirts. Now Siona, bless her, cannot imagine any of that happening to her, especially the part where she loses her tail—she loves her tail. She loves to swim and make tiny perfect circles, loops, and figure eights. How can she lose her tail? And to attach herself to a rock! That sounds preposterous to Siona.
Determined to save what she loves the most—and much to the dismay of her mother and her father, sessile adults with heads stuck to the rock—Siona sets out on an improbable mission to keep her beloved tail. She starts off looking for Clarissa, the clairvoyant clam. Clarissa may have the answers for Siona. Along the way, she encounters a cast of colorful sea creatures, each with their own unique and marvelous talents. Following a horrific battle with a beastly pistol shrimp and the untimely arrival of a rogue wave, each creature must use their unique biological endowments for their mutual and assured survival, implying the interdependence of all creatures. Ultimately, Siona, the sea squirt, finds her biological destiny—a destiny upon which the human race depends on.
Author Barbara A. Liepe was determined to encourage scientific literacy and wonder, not via the rapturous content of a textbook but through a fictional story with a key protagonist. She wrote Siona’s Tale hoping to teach kids and kids at heart that we are all connected and our stories intertwine and overlap, that nothing is inconsequential in the grand scheme of the universe, that we have the most significant task of protecting our blue ark, the Earth.
Siona’s Tale is a captivating story of adventure and self-discovery.
Reviews and What Readers Say
" What a wonderful story! A great imagination combined with refreshing science, make this sci-fi/fantasy adventure a joy to read. Also nice, this is a very original novel, and I can't think of a book to compare it to. The fanciful, ancient invertebrate characters are well developed, and there are a few modern day human characters too. This novel really spans time, with most of it taking place 500 odd million years ago, but also portions in present time, and glimpses of more distant times, even back to the origins of the universe, and also the future. The story is mostly the adventures of a handful of invertebrate characters, who contemplate, talk to each other, and even do math. They go through many adventures and life/death situations, and these are action packed and fast moving. There is a meaningful, underlying message about the connectiveness and evolution of nature, and also a theme of the young not wanting to 'adult'. One could say this is more of a children's story, but I really enjoyed reading this magical tale--but that is part of the point. I hope we hear more from the author, Dr Liepe."
—Philip Bradly Anderson, Amazon Reader's Review, Verified Purchase
" I was captivated by the characters and the sweet story. It was a fun read for me because it had a mix of humor and braininess. It is a rare and lovely combo. Nice scientific insights. Could be a book for kids, but adults will enjoy too -- maybe a book to read together."
—HT Bern, Amazon Reader's Review, Verified Purchase
" Wonderful book with great characters, that I enjoyed as much as my kids. The science in the book made for great discussions after each chapter and really kept the kids engaged and using the glossary. It is such a great read that I am adding it to several summer reading book clubs."
—Judy Palombi, Amazon Reader's Review, Verified Purchase
" Bought this for my kids to read, ended up reading it myself! I really liked it!."
—David McAuliffe, Amazon Reader's Review, Verified Purchase
" I did not know what to expect, but I found this to be a beautifully written fable that combines such diverse elements as evolutionary biology, talking sea creatures, and finding that a child's divergence from the typical can sometimes be a gift. Good for all nature-curious folks middle school and up (there's science explained in detail in there for adults and precocious kids), but could also stand alone as a read-aloud for younger kids. I bet this would be a great addition for a middle school library or aquarium / science museum gift store."
—Barbara A. Mcquinn, Amazon Reader's Review, Verified Purchase
Review by Amy Alcott
Disclosure: This article is a personal endorsement of the professional reviewer. The BookWalker is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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From the author
Since Barbara was a teenager, she has been captivated by the natural world and earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, at Berkeley focused on fish photoreceptors. She has authored a number of publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Barbara loves to create fictional worlds based on factual biology. She recently read My Absolute Darling, Your Inner Fish, All the Light We Cannot See, A Wrinkle in Time, The Emperor of all Maladies, and The Cambrian Explosion. She loves Dawkins and Faulkner and composes most of her scenes while out on a five-mile run in the Berkeley/Oakland Hills. She is currently a sales representative in the life sciences and she and her husband, Frank, live in Berkeley, California, and have three children.