Puffer was an average but carefree young Balloonfish living in the ocean until a mysterious black cloud (an oil spill) descended and changed things forever. Separated from his beloved family, Puffer must now create a new life with the friends he meets at The Conch Shell Grill. That’s the dilemma addressed in Mary Faye’s children’s picture book, The Adventures of Patroller Puffer.
Life on a coral reef is complicated and dangerous. Disaster wrought by thoughtless humans is common. Homes are destroyed by divers with careless flippers; garbage of every description causes problems; entire coral communities are ruined by people who live on shore or stare down at the fish from above.
When Puffer arrives in Key Reef City, he meets an endless collection of good-natured marine characters all eager to share survival stories of their rough-and-tumble life. The group bands together, and with the help of friendly boy named Thomas, tries to change their world for the good.
Powell writes passionately about the many ways human beings interfere with marine life and damage the ocean world. Young readers are introduced to numerous fascinating and colorful marine species. One wishes, however, that Powell had included more information and facts about the fish she describes; new characters are introduced endlessly and yet are hard to keep track of.
The illustrations by children don’t help here, as they’re the imaginative doodles and drawings of the very young: sweet but not truly publishable. This contributes to the book’s overall weak design. Written for children aged 8-12, this book should be designed as a chapter book not a picture book; no matter how inspired it’s message, the packaging here feels pre-school, ensuring its target audience won’t lift it off the shelf.
With some re-design and revision, however, the book may inspire tweens to think about how their actions contribute to polluting ocean waters and, like Puffer, explore ways to make a positive difference.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.