Cover image for How to Make Friends With the Sea
How to Make Friends With the Sea
Physical Description:
272 p. ;

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Tanya Guerrero's How to Make Friends with the Sea is a middle grade debut novel set in the Philippines about a young boy's challenges with anxiety while his mother fosters an orphaned child with a facial anomaly.

Pablo is homesick.

He's only twelve years old, but he's lived in more countries than he can count. After his parents divorced, he and his mother have moved from place to place for years, never settling anywhere long enough to call it home. And along the way, Pablo has collected more and more fears: of dirt, of germs, and most of all, of the ocean.

Now they're living in the Philippines, and his mother, a zoologist who works at a local wildlife refuge, is too busy saving animals to notice that Pablo might need saving, too. Then his mother takes in Chiqui, an orphaned girl with a cleft lip--and Pablo finds that through being strong for Chiqui, his own fears don't seem so scary.

He might even find the courage to face his biggest fear of all...and learn how to make friends with the sea.

Author Notes

Tanya Guerrero is Filipino and Spanish by birth, but has been fortunate enough to call three countries home--the Philippines, Spain, and the United States. Currently, she lives in a shipping container home in the suburbs of Manila with her husband, daughter, and a menagerie of rescued cats and dogs. In her free time, she grows her own food, bakes bread, and reads. How to Make Friends with the Sea is her debut novel.

Reviews 2

Kirkus Review

A boy struggles with anxiety amid significant life changes. Pablo and his mother move around every few months and are currently residing in the Philippines. Ever since he was little, things bothered Pablo, but after his parents' divorce, Pablo has picked up more anxieties, ranging from tiny things like germs and crumbs to the seahis biggest fear. On Pablo's 12th birthday, his mother brings home an orphaned Filipino girl with a cleft lip. Chiqui, as they call her, doesn't understand English, won't speak, and has a hard time adjusting to her new environment. At first, Pablo hates the change, but one evening Chiqui speaks to him and only him. Pablo realizes he wants to be strong for Chiqui and to protect her, and that feeling might be bigger than all his fears, even the sea. As related by Pablo, this is an indelible depiction of a child's struggle with mental health. Readers learn empathy as they feel Pablo's heartbreaking struggles firsthand, but they also experience the loving relationships that help him overcome them. Guerrero touches on many topicsanxiety, fostering, friendship, family, selective mutism, and moreseamlessly weaving them all together to create a strong, moving narrative. Originally from Spain, Pablo's mother mixes English with her native tongue, and other characters often speak Tagalog. Pablo and his mother are both white.A heartbreaking, heartwarming, powerful debut novel. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Ever since his parents' divorce, Pablo has accompanied his zoologist mother all over the world. While her work to save endangered wildlife is noble, it has prevented Pablo from truly finding a home. Their latest stop is the Philippines, where his mother finds a new, unexpected task--caring for a young girl found in a chicken coop with no family and an unknown past. The presence of this new member of the household forces Pablo to confront several truths about himself: his fractured relationship with his distant father; his feelings for his neighbor, Happy; his phobias about germs, dirt, and large bodies of water; and his connection to the orphan girl who desperately needs someone to trust. Guerrero's heartfelt debut brings to life the colors, textures, and tastes of the Philippines, while also showing a boy's struggles with crippling anxiety. The book evolves in light touches, focusing on Pablo's emotional journey. Presented with care and compassion, Pablo's quest to find courage when another's welfare depends on it will touch and inspire readers.