3 out of 4 stars
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Siona’s Tale by Barbara A Liepe tells two stories in one—the story of human Siona and the story-within-a-story of Sea squirt Siona.
Eleven-year-old human Siona dislikes going to the ocean with her mother, a marine biologist. After a long day by the water, Siona’s mother tells human Siona a story about a sea squirt named Siona. The sea squirt is born loving to swim and wanting to explore, but she is pressured to attach to a rock and stay in one place forever. Sea squirt Siona doesn’t want this and, with the help of new friends, travels far to find the Spanish dancer and a wise old clam. Will they be able to help sea squirt Siona? Meanwhile, why does human Siona dislike the water so much?
This story was absolutely adorable. Friendship and family are strong themes throughout. The descriptions were just beautiful Whether with human or sea squirt Siona, I could see the blue of the water or the many colors of the fish. Sea squirt Siona’s tail did so many amazing things, and I found myself thinking of her tail as its own character.
Science and math also factor greatly into this story. At the beginning of the book, human Siona says she is 58% grown up. This mathematical thinking is typical of her character. She counts exact numbers of paces to get from point A to point B. When she measures things, the measurements are precise. This book is definitely on the side of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). I was reintroduced to concepts I hadn’t thought about since middle or high school. Some I remembered. Some I’d forgotten but recalled vaguely once they were described. And others, I just gave up on ever thinking I knew. For me, it was a fun trip back to science class.
While the math and science concepts are interesting, I felt a disconnect between them and the story. The storyline of Siona’s Tale is perfect for children between the ages of six and nine or ten. The science, however, felt more for ages twelve to fourteen. Older children might find Siona’s story too young for them, and younger children might get too confused by the science. Some sections also felt very heavy on the amount of science. For example, at one point the different numbers for various light wavelengths are given. There were so many, and I found myself getting a bit confused because they came at me so fast. Perhaps it’s because I’m less scientifically minded, but it was just too much sometimes.
I rate Siona’s Tale 3 out of 4 stars. I noticed only one error in the entire book, which speaks to how much effort the author put into the finish product. The disconnect between the story and science ages keep me from rating this 4 stars, but I never thought to rate it below 3. Middle school-aged kids who are very into science would enjoy this book. This might also be good for kids who are great at science but behind in reading. The book could present an opportunity for science lovers to work on their language skills. Ambitious younger kids may also enjoy this, especially with a parent who could assist with some of the tougher science concepts. Overall, this book is both educational and entertaining from page one. If you don’t mind a lot of science with your fiction, the tale of Siona and her tail is not to be missed.
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