Idea: Zaleski, a marine geologist, offers a riveting, photo-filled account of her time aboard an archaeological research vessel in search of an ancient shipwreck.
Prose: Zaleski’s narrative blends science, history, technology, and archaeology, with candid, day-to-day descriptions of life aboard a research vessel. Middle grade readers will delight in both the mundane aspects of the journey and the moments of excitement and anticipation.
Originality: The journey Zaleski chronicles aboard the Hercules is wholly unique, and sure to engage young readers. In terms of content, tone, and presentation, this work is perfect for fans of the Scientists in the Field series of children’s nonfiction titles.
Character/Execution: The author is keenly aware of her readership and capably holds their interest through detailed descriptions of life at sea on a research vessel.
Date Submitted: October 03, 2020
Reviewed by Melinda Facal for Readers' Favorite A Young Person’s Field Guide to Finding Lost Shipwrecks: The Search for the Santisima by Laurie Anne Zaleski is an informative and fascinating account of all that goes into searching for a lost shipwreck. The author, a marine geologist, takes the reader along on the expedition that she and a capable team undertook while looking for the Santisima, a ship that was sunk over 200 years ago during a battle. The crew sets out on a research vessel and heads to Cadiz, Spain in hopes of finding the sunken ship. Throughout this journey, Zaleski describes the research, planning, and science involved in this complex undertaking. The author explains scientific and mathematical concepts and terms in ways that make them easily understood and even relatable. Zaleski also shares details about the good food and fun times that she and her colleagues were able to experience while on this expedition.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Young Person’s Field Guide to Finding Lost Shipwrecks: The Search for the Santisima by Laurie Anne Zaleski. Throughout this book, Zaleski encourages the reader to think and to ask questions, which sparks curiosity and a sense of adventure. The author outlines complicated information in an engaging and clear manner. While reading this book, I learned many nautical terms, the important role weather plays in the ship’s mission, and even got to practice a math equation. Zaleski makes math and science accessible and interesting. Through this guide, I also gained an appreciation for the dedication and commitment it takes to search for lost shipwrecks. There is a wealth of information in this highly educational and entertaining read.
Laurie Zaleski spent much of her life traveling as a marine geologist, conducting geological surveys and mapping the ocean floor.
She has since settled in Long Beach, and begun a second career writing, primarily for children. Her first book, A Young Person’s Field Guide to Finding Lost Shipwrecks, has been published by Austin Macauley Publishers.
"The focus of the book is explaining geological oceanography, but the fun part is the search for shipwrecks," Zaleski said. "It's about our 2004 trip to find the Santísima, a 200-year-old shipwreck…
"I have a 12-year-old granddaughter now. I've always wanted to keep youngsters engaged in math and science; girls in particular. That's why I wrote it as a children's book."
The book is autobiographical, telling the true story of the search for the shipwreck off the coast of Cadiz, Spain. The 37-meter research boat named Hercules carried a crew of 14, including Zaleski, three archeologists and two college interns.
The 70-page book engages the reader with the tale of a shipwreck search while also managing to explain complex science like the workings of a multi-beam sonar scanner and other scientific principles.
Zaleski was in charge of the 2004 expedition. Spoiler alert — she and her crew found multiple shipwrecks, but were unable to complete the dives necessary to definitively identify the Santísima. Visibility was too poor for the remote rover to do much more than say something was on the ocean floor.
"I try to portray what it really was like to work on a research vessel," Zaleski said. "It's about science, but it's about a lot more than science, too."
Zaleski takes a straight-forward tone in her writing, avoiding talking down to her target audience of 9- to 14-year-olds. She said she's already received thank you notes from other geologists and archeologists for explaining what it's like to work in the field.
Launching a book in the middle of the coronavirus shutdown has proven to be challenging, Zaleski said, but sales are going well. A Young Person’s Field Guide to Finding Lost Shipwrecks is available at the Barnes & Noble in the Marina Pacifica center as well as online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites in hardback, paperback and Kindle.
"Once things open up again, I want to do book signings, all that," Zalenski said. "I'm reaching out to schools now to see about Zoom events."
She also has already begun writing again; this time a series for younger children called Travels With Ariel. The books will follow a young (very young) geologist as she travels around the globe solving questions — and teaching some science and math at the same time.
Laurie Zaleski has found a way to communicate her science to new audiences and published her first book