The Line Tender (Paperback)

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The Line Tender By Kate Allen Cover Image
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Staff Reviews


Thirteen-year-olds Lucy and Fred decide to spend their summer working on a science project – a field guide that Lucy illustrates while Fred writes. The only stipulation is that they have to see the actual specimen. But when a dead great white shark appears, memories of Lucy’s mother, a marine biologist, surface once again. What comes through is the naïve honesty of a young girl who has coped with losing her mother and now has to deal with yet another tragedy. One particular chapter literally took my breath away. The Line Tender is a book to savor, one that will help any young person, who has experienced loss, to understand the feelings of sadness and anger and to survive with the help of family and unexpected friendships. The cover and chapter illustrations by Xingye Jin are perfect and are a major contribution to the story.

-  Mindy

— From Mindy's Recs

Spring 2019 Kids Indie Next List

The Line Tender is the beautifully written story of Lucy, an almost-13-year-old girl in the oceanside town of Rockport, Massachusetts. Her mother, a shark scientist, died suddenly when Lucy was only eight, and she has found solace within a circle of caring friends and her father, who remains depressed since his wife’s death. I absolutely adored the characters in this book, and all the scientific information about sharks.”
— Vicky Titcomb, Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, MA


Funny, poignant, and deeply moving, The Line Tender is a story of nature's enduring mystery and a girl determined to find meaning and connection within it.

Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart's marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, collecting shark data when she died suddenly. Lucy was seven. Since then Lucy and her father have kept their heads above water--thanks in large part to a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport. On one steamy day, the tide brings a great white--and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was "meaningful" but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant. To survive the fresh wave of grief, Lucy must grab the line that connects her depressed father, a stubborn fisherman, and a curious old widower to her mother's unfinished research on the Great White's return to Cape Cod. If Lucy can find a way to help this unlikely quartet follow the sharks her mother loved, she'll finally be able to look beyond what she's lost and toward what's left to be discovered.

★"Confidently voiced."—Kirkus Reviews, starred
★"Richly layered."—Publishers Weekly, starred
★"A hopeful path forward."—Booklist, starred 
★"Life-affirming."—BCCB, starred
★"Big-hearted." —Bookpage, starred
★“Will appeal to just about everyone.” – SLC, starred
★"Exquisitely, beautifully real."—Shelf Awareness, starred

About the Author

Kate Allen grew up in Massachusetts and lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her family. The Line Tender is her first novel. Visit her online at

Praise For…

A National Bestseller
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2019
A Kirkus Best Book of 2019

A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2019
A Book Page Best Book of 2019
A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book

"Kate Allen writes with lyric grace, and her beautifully textured narrative, of a girl struggling to understand and move beyond tragedy, is a triumph."—The Buffalo News

"Allen’s understated but richly detailed story will help young readers dig into their resilience to see how they, too, can draw connections in their lives."—The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A masterful blend of exuberant life and its accompanying tragedy."—The Florida Times Union

"Allen’s debut novel is, indeed, tender. Also funny, poignant, sad and filled with hope."—The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

“In following the adaptation of sharks to a shifting ecology, The Line Tender speaks to our own human capacity to adapt to loss--and Lucy's losses are profound. This is a novel that stirs our deepest hope that we can survive profound change, that we can even move into new channels that will support us and nourish us and point us toward what we had never anticipated. This is a celebration of our ability to survive.”—Gary Schmidt, Newbery and Printz Honoree and National Book Award Finalist

“This richly textured story calls us to our most pressing business on earth: to understand and respect the stunningly complex creatures around us before they disappear forever.” —Margi Preus, author of Heart of a Samurai, a Newbery Honor book

"Holy fish, this is a graceful, honest, special book. The Line Tender is a story of resilience. It's about how unbelievably strong and resourceful kids can be. About the real magic in the world--the magic of science, the magic of survival, and the magic of love." —Laurel Snyder, author of the National Book Award longlisted Orphan Island 

"The Line Tender
captivated me. From page one through the end of the book, I couldn't stop turning pages. I was completely lost in the book when I was reading it, and obsessed with trying to get back to the book when I was not. You MUST add this book to your reading list."—Colby Sharp, Nerdy Book Club co-founder and editor of The Creativity Project

"I have gasped and cried multiple times while reading Kate Allen's deeply moving debut."—Mr. Schu, school and library childen's literature advocate 

★"Rich, complex, and confidently voiced."—Kirkus Reviews, starred
★"Allen tackles the complexities of grief with subtly wry humor and insight in this richly layered middle grade debut about the power of science and love."—Publishers Weekly, starred
★"There's no art or science to navigating loss, but Allen blends both into a hopeful path forward."—Booklist, starred 
★“This book will appeal to just about everyone.” – School Library Connection, starred
★"Allen writes with tenderness and confidence....a classic life-affirming weeper, and readers will pick up some respect for sharks along the sniffling way."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred
★"Numerous middle grade books deal with grief, but few do it so beautifully―and hopefully―as The Line Tender." —Bookpage, starred
★"Kate Allen has created a landscape that, in spite of being filled with big, heartbreaking themes of loss, is understated and exquisitely, beautifully real."—Shelf Awareness, starred
Product Details
ISBN: 9780735231610
ISBN-10: 0735231613
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: April 21st, 2020
Pages: 384
Language: English