Taking a deep dive into the world of ocean conservation and education, Insight Editions imprint Earth Aware Kids has partnered with nonprofit OceanX on a collection of middle-grade fiction that aims to further young readers’ understanding of their natural surroundings. The first two books debuted in May, with additional titles slated for the fall.

“X” Marks the Spot

The OceanX Adventures series builds on the company’s portfolio of STEM-based titles that seek to engage young readers on issues ranging from climate change to decreased species diversity. “Our previous publishing has all been highly illustrated nonfiction for younger readers,” said Insight Editions CEO and publisher Raoul Goff. “The OceanX series expands on that rich foundation with exciting fiction that has a solid footing in sound science.”

The joint effort that spawned these books was several years in the making. Goff was first introduced to OceanX via film director and environmental activist James Cameron, who is currently working on a documentary series with the educational nonprofit. Goff, along with OceanX vice chair Vince Pieribone, discussed how they could work together to promote ocean conservation and community engagement. The two then tapped veteran children’s book author Kate Jerome to pen the OceanX Adventures series, impressed with her background not only as a writer, but as a trained biology educator. “As Kate is fond of saying, ‘Reading opens many doors for children, but conversations give them the courage to go through them,’ ” Goff said.

Creating content that appealed to middle grade readers with a relatable tone was essential to crafting the series. “The secret sauce in the OceanX series is tying fictional adventures to real-life exploration,” Goff explained. To achieve this balance, Jerome interviewed OceanX scientists and studied their past missions when developing storylines. Mattie Rodrigue, OceanX’s science program lead, was tasked with reviewing all final versions to ensure their authenticity, and ultimately served as inspiration for one of the main characters, Dr. Anna Knowles.

While the series’ plot points incorporate factual information, Jerome also paid careful attention when developing fictional figures with whom readers could identify. “The characters in the story are kids just like the young readers themselves,” Goff said. “This means they sometimes zone out, argue with their siblings, and even make mistakes. But they also remain curious and have fun as they learn new things and develop their personal passions.” In the first book, Mystery at the Aquarium, two best friends work together to figure out what has caused a power outage at this area attraction, while in book two, Danger in the Deep Sea, the action takes place underwater and involves a Spanish shipwreck with lost treasure.

Looking ahead to forthcoming titles in the OceanX Adventures line, readers will be able to meet new characters while vicariously traversing the depths of the ocean. In book 3, protagonist Marena Montoya, who appeared in the first title, learns to scuba dive in California’s Monterey Bay. To walk the walk—or, in this case, dive the dive—Jerome took scuba lessons and became a certified diver to better inform her writing. “Kate often jokes that children’s book authors are willing to try just about anything to relate to their readers,” Goff said.