Chasing at the Surface

West Margin Press, 228 pages
Middle grade fiction, AGES 7-12

Sometimes finding your way home takes more than courage.
It takes a leap of faith.

Inspired by an actual event, CHASING AT THE SURFACE is the story of a young girl’s courage and the healing power of nature. After her mother unexpectedly leaves home, 12-year old Marisa struggles with her feelings of loss and abandonment just as a pod of nineteen orca whales—mothers with their new calves following a run of chum salmon—become entrapped in the enclosed inlet near her Northwest home.

Can Marisa find a way to free the whales even if it means facing the secrets in her mother’s past? Her journey brings her to a new understanding of courage, the assaults humans have had on nature, and the complicated meaning of home and family.

Student Activity Guide

Interested in learning more about killer whales and their habitat? Download my 19-page Study and Activity Guide to Chasing at the Surface


To help entertain, instruct, and inspire kids during the COVID 19 crisis, I’ve posted audio readings of the first 10 chapters of Chasing at the Surface. Click here to access the materials. #SCBWIConnects


Winner, 2016 National Outdoor Book Award, Children’s category

2016 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12, National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Children’s Book Council

2016 YA Honorable Mention, Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award

“As 12-year old Marisa learns more about whales, she begins to understand the delicate life-and-death balance facing these creatures of the deep. The combination of this understanding, along with the theme of family keeps the story flowing to a climactic end.”  ~2016 National Outdoor Book Award Committee

“Moments close to the orcas are breathtakingly described, accentuating the thrill as the whales breach, sound, and vocalize. Basing her story on actual events, the author has created a poignant novel that vividly celebrates the interconnected nature of all living creatures. Like the eerily beautiful voices of the orcas in the ocean, this book will haunt readers.” ~Kirkus Reviews

“A heartfelt story of courage, love and the true meaning of family, Chasing at the Surface moved me to tears and had me cheering for young Marisa in her quest to free a pod of magnificent, endangered orcas trapped in an inlet in the Pacific Northwest.” ~Anjali Banerjee, author of Looking for Bapu and Seaglass Summer

“A wonderful book that weaves an exciting and mysterious story about families and whales.” ~Susan Berta, Cofounder, Orca Network

“Chasing at the Surface is a beautifully written story of how one girl’s connection to the wonder of nature’s wild orcas helps her save both them and herself from life’s perils.” ~Mary Ruckelshaus, Managing Director, Natural Capital Project, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Watch my Book Trailer for CHASING AT THE SURFACE:

Signed books

If you place an order through my local bookstores, University Bookstore, Seattle or Phinney Books, I can sign your copy for you! Just add a note and request it be signed by author Sharon Mentyka when you place your order. Or find it at your local independent bookstore.