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How to Make Friends with the Sea

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Pablo is homesick.

He’s only twelve years old, but he’s lived in more countries than he can count. After his parents divorced, he and his mother have moved from place to place for years, never settling anywhere long enough to call it home. And along the way, Pablo has collected more and more fears: of dirt, of germs, and most of all, of the ocean.

Now they’re living in the Philippines, and his mother, a zoologist who works at a local wildlife refuge, is too busy saving animals to notice that Pablo might need saving, too. Then his mother takes in Chiqui, an orphaned girl with a cleft lip—and Pablo finds that through being strong for Chiqui, his own fears don’t seem so scary.

He might even find the courage to face his biggest fear of all…and learn how to make friends with the sea.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published March 31, 2020

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About the author

Tanya Guerrero

4 books94 followers
Tanya Guerrero is Filipino and Spanish by birth, but has been fortunate enough to call three countries home—the Philippines, Spain, and the United States. Currently, she lives in a shipping container home in the suburbs of Manila with her husband, daughter, and a menagerie of rescued cats and dogs. In her free time, she grows her own food, bakes bread, and reads. Her debut, How to Make Friends with the Sea, was released on March 31, 2020, followed by All You Knead is Love, March 30, 2021 and Adrift, September 6, 2022.

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5 stars
221 (46%)
4 stars
145 (30%)
3 stars
79 (16%)
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21 (4%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 108 reviews
Profile Image for Shealea.
441 reviews1,201 followers
Shelved as 'will-avoid-forever'
April 5, 2020
Note: I am only own-voices for the Filipino representation. I cannot comment on the authenticity of the OCD representation.


When How to Make Friends with the Sea was more or less introduced as a 12-year-old white boy befriending an orphaned brown girl from the Philippines and this ~*friendship*~ leading to his character development, I immediately had reservations about this debut.

Nevertheless, I read a preview of this book on Amazon so I can make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase it. And I've come to the conclusion that I wouldn't touch this book with a 10-foot pole.

It's one thing for Pablo to be "homesick" (to quote the book's synopsis), but it's an entirely different thing for him to be so unnecessarily hostile towards the Philippines and Filipino culture ESPECIALLY since this story is supposedly told by one of our own.

The language and word choice in How to Make Friends with the Sea are so very indicative of the book's intention to make fun of and "other" Filipino culture.

Very early on in the story, jeeps are described as "weird-looking mini-buses covered in so many decorations that they could have easily passed for tacky carnival rides". Fast forward a few chapters, the Filipino language is described as "totally alien" even though there are literally hundreds of ways to express "I could not understand what he said because I don't speak Tagalog" without being offensive. Let's not forget the numerous Filipino characters with "broken English" that comes off as ridiculous at best, and downright uncomfortable at worst. (I dare you to convince me that a Filipino man from a rural area can use the word "guerrilla" casually in everyday conversation, but for some reason, never learned the existence of "don't." Make it make sense, Cassidy.)

Moreover, the second chapter -- yes, the second chapter -- of this book already had me seething. Why? Because it is revealed that the orphaned girl is ostracized by her entire community because her grandfather had allegedly been a communist. I can't even begin to unpack how culturally insensitive this is, especially at a time where red-tagging is rampant and dangerous in the Philippines.

Quotes lifted from the Amazon preview:

Basketball Shorts Man pointed at the irate birds. "The girl ... She want stay with the chikens ... Her lolo, um ... her grandfather die, already two days, ma'am. She not eat. She sleep and cry ... only sleep and cry," he stammered in broken English.

Basketball Shorts Man shrugged. "Hindi ko alam ... Sorry, ma'am. I do not know. The people sa baryo -- in the village ... they not talk so much. They afraid, ma'am. The girl, her lolo was NPA, the New People's Army -- communist guerrillas."

Basketball Shorts Man pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his sweaty forehead. "Ma'am, they talk, konti lang. Small talk. The girl not go to school, not go to town so much, because her face ... She stay home, sa bahay. She help with work. Take care of chicken, sell egg, look after her lolo."

He exhaled. "Opo, ma'am. But the owner of the land, Sir Luis, he not want the government, the pulis. He want private. No questions ... That why you here, ma'am."

Also, not as huge of a critique compared to my previous points, but I was born and raised in a rural area in the Philippines (near a farm even!), and I've never heard of chauffeurs being a common thing. But you do you, I guess.

"But then Mama explained that chauffeurs were pretty common in the Philippines."

TL;DR: I've already wasted too much of my breath and time on this book. I highly recommend that you save yours.
Profile Image for Raquel Vasquez Gilliland.
Author 7 books326 followers
February 11, 2019
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is a book I wish I could somehow give to eleven-year-old me. It’s a stunning story that made me completely forget to answer the phone or make lunch or check emails as I read.

Pablo and his mom move to someplace new every few months. They’ve lived in Indonesia, Kenya, and Costa Rica, and one month ago, they moved to the Philippines. Throughout the book, we readers are treated to lush descriptions of Pablo’s life in his new home, from the SM Mall to the wilderness area of the El Lado Salvaje Sanctuary to the sea itself, wide and wild and turquoise.

Everything seems to bother Pablo—crumbs on the floor, fingerprints, and the invisible germs that he can’t ever seem to escape. One of the rituals that grounds Pablo involves numbers. He counts the rice grains of his dinner, steps, clouds, the crackling sounds a fire puts out—but lately, the need to count is causing even more anxiety.

To top this off, Pablo’s world is shaken when his mother takes in an orphan, Chiqui. When things seem like they couldn’t get worse, Pablo is required to take a trip with his mother and Chiqui to the sea, one of Pablo’s greatest phobias. Guerrero’s skills as a writer include perfectly capturing the overwhelming feelings of terror. Through exquisite prose, we feel Pablo’s ocean-fear, his social anxiety, his overwhelming need to keep track of mess and crumbs, and because of this, we root for his story as though it were our own.

One of the most wondrous and heart-warming relationships in Pablo’s life is the one he develops with Chiqui. Pablo doesn’t know it yet, but this little girl he fears and envies signifies the beginning of his healing—the healing of the drift with his mother, of his isolation, and of his heart, broken after his father’s leaving.

One of the most important elements of HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is the story tells young readers who are struggling with their mental health that they’re not alone. That they can bridge the gap between who they are and who they want to be—with help from trusted adults, and with the courage to take the first steps in facing their fears, even if those fears happen to be as big as the blue, glittering ocean.
Profile Image for Liz Lawson.
Author 9 books410 followers
March 6, 2019
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is a stunning MG debut from the enormously talented Tanya Guerrero. It's a book about friendship, love, and family, and how all three of those things can work to help heal our wounds. I absolutely loved this book, in large part because of Guerrero's beautiful descriptions of the Philippines, a place I have never been but now I feel I know well. Guerrero's MG voice is strong and spot-on perfect, to the point where I could picture Pablo as I read -- I felt like he and I were friends by the end of the novel.

I highly recommend all MG readers pick up a copy of this book--it will teach U.S. readers about a world outside of their own country, and help those struggling with anxiety feel less alone. I can't wait to see what Guerrero does next; I'm a fan for life.
Profile Image for Shannon Doleski.
Author 2 books33 followers
April 4, 2020
In this stunning middle grade debut, Pablo moves to the Philippines for his mother's job at an animal sanctuary. The reader will discover the lush setting as the narrator does. Guerrero beautifully weaves multiple languages and cultures in a story about a boy accepting himself. The portrayal of Pablo's anxiety is sensitive and pragmatic. This is sure to be an award winner, and I am so lucky to have read it early.
April 1, 2020
I just adored Tanya Guerrero’s HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA! It’s a poignant debut novel about twelve-year-old Pablo, who experiences extreme anxiety, and a charming orphan who comes to live with him. Author Tanya Guerrero’s beautifully crafted words pulled me into Pablo’s rich inner world from the opening page. His thought processes, his insecurities, his anxieties, his coping mechanisms. I felt like I was right there beside Pablo in every scene, feeling his feelings along with him in such a powerful way. The growing bond between Pablo and orphan Chiqui, as well as how their friendship helped him grow, truly touched my heart.

Descriptions are nicely woven into the narrative to bring the Philippines--the food, the landscape, the people--to life and I enjoyed being able to experience a new culture along with Pablo. While the book tackles weighty themes, there’s also plenty of humor sprinkled throughout and I often found myself smiling at Pablo’s unique observations.

I felt so invested in Pablo, in his story, that I was rooting for him throughout his entire journey. Pablo, Chiqui, and company are such a lovable cast of characters that I wanted the book to keep going so I could spend more time with them!

This is an authentic, genuine, and refreshing debut novel. It’s got heart and humor and won’t let you down. I recommend HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA to all readers, but I believe it will be particularly meaningful for anyone who experiences mental health issues. For these readers, Pablo’s story will serve as a familiar friend. It will offer reassurance that others not only experience, but also overcome struggles with anxiety.
Profile Image for Kaela Rivera.
Author 6 books104 followers
March 31, 2020
This novel is a lovely introduction to the Philippines, animal sanctuaries, and learning to cope with anxiety through Pablo's honest and emotional journey. A moving story about a boy who feels displaced, both because of his mind and his new country, and his journey to grow, to speak up, and to make friends. HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is deeply satisfying, and its happy ending isn't saccharine or unrealistic. It's honest but hopeful, and the "things are getting better" feeling is earned and magnificent.

*more to come*
Profile Image for Kristin Lambert.
Author 1 book90 followers
April 6, 2020
This is the story of 12-year-old Pablo, who has moved around the world often with his mom and is having a hard time adjusting to his new home in the Philippines, especially since his OCD is flaring up worse than ever. Like any kid who moves to a new place and is missing the old one, he starts out pretty hostile and judgmental about the people and customs of the Philippines, but over time, he learns they have so much to offer, and that this might just feel like the best home he’s ever had.

I read this book with my 9-year-old and 7-year-old, both of whom were riveted by Pablo and Chiqui’s story. We read a lot of middle grade books together, and not all of them hold their attention, but both my girls fell in love with these characters and their story and eagerly asked to read more each night. My older daughter has anxiety, and though it manifests differently than Pablo’s, I think she really appreciated seeing it depicted on the page so accurately. We were all fascinated by learning about life in the Philippines, too. Made us want to know more and to go for a visit ourselves!
Profile Image for Prerna Pickett.
Author 3 books52 followers
July 8, 2019
Tanya Guerrero’s MG debut, How to Make Friends with the Sea, is a tender story that will warm your heart. The book follows Pablo as his life is thrown for a loop, on his birthday of all days, by the arrival of a young girl named Chiqui. Pablo’s worldview is unique and I loved watching him navigate his insecurities and anxieties along with the twists and turns of life. Pablo is a strong character and his voice shines through, from the way he goes through his every day rituals to his descriptions of the Philippines, it’s all so lovely and real and truly pulls you into the story. Pablo is also an incredibly empathetic character and you’ll find yourself rooting for him as he struggles to fit into a world that tries to tell him he’s TOO different, TOO afraid, and simply TOO Pablo because we’ve all felt that way in our own lives at one point or another. In the end HTMFWTS left me smiling and I can’t wait until it’s finally released so that we can all gush over it together.
Profile Image for Francesca Flores.
Author 3 books262 followers
October 18, 2019
This book was incredible! There's so much here that readers of all ages, but especially kids, can connect with; feeling out of place (especially kids who move around a lot), challenging family relationships, and Pablo's mental health struggles. Pablo is very relatable and sweet, funny and endearing. I rooted for him from page one, and I ended up binge reading this engrossing story on one flight! Also, it made me cry. That means it's a new fave.

Make sure to put this on your TBR for 2020!!
Profile Image for Jennifer Moffett.
Author 2 books77 followers
August 3, 2019
As someone who reads mostly adult and YA, I will admit this is the first middle grade I’ve read in a very long time. Having said that, I absolutely could not put this book down!

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is gorgeously written and breathtakingly atmospheric. The reader experiences every moment through 12-year-old Pablo’s perspective in a way that makes your own heart feel just as vulnerable—but also just as hopeful—as his.

Struggling with phobias from an unpredictable nomadic life that brought them to the Philippines, Pablo feels the world around him is completely out of control. He is afraid of … well, pretty much everything. When his mother takes in an orphaned girl named Chiqui, Pablo is forced to face his fears, which have been amped up to a level he never imagined he could handle.

As we learn how the adults around Pablo have failed him (in both big and small ways), the reader yearns to protect him. But then we watch him take each brave step toward overcoming his obstacles and realize maybe Pablo is more capable than we knew. In his brave quest to help Chiqui adjust after she survived an even scarier reality, Pablo learns making sacrifices to help others could be the answer to the unpredictable things we can’t control.

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is such an important, timely book for kids—and also the adults who want to make the world a better, more supportive place for them. Readers will discover empathy is a potent superpower.
Profile Image for Briana.
Author 6 books38 followers
August 5, 2019
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is perfect for any reader who has felt their differences stripped their control. Protagonist Pablo struggles silently with crippling anxiety and feels unable to rely on the adults in his life - from his ever-moving and preoccupied mother, to his absent and emotionally distant father. Over the course of the novel, Pablo not only learns to adapt to change, but when to speak up and regain control as well. Guerroro's vibrant prose will transport readers to Pablo's new home in the Philippines, and the first-person narration allows readers to see the world through Pablo's eyes - fostering empathy not only for him, but his experience with anxiety as well. The ending will definitely draw a few tears 0 but don't worry, Guerroro's beautiful work will stitch your heart back together by the final page.
Profile Image for Shannon Takaoka.
Author 2 books107 followers
April 2, 2019
It’s hard to feel different, especially when you are 12 years old. Pablo has anxiety about everything – the germs on the ground and in the air, messes, noise, crowds and meeting new people. One of his biggest phobias is the ocean, which kind of is a bummer when you live in the Philippines, where the ocean is never far away. And ever since his mom and dad split, Pablo also feels sad and alone, making his anxiety even worse. When his mom temporarily takes in a little girl named Chiqui who has been orphaned, Pablo is worried about even more chaos upending his life. But what happens next will change Pablo’s life in ways he never could have imagined.

This story about family, friendship, facing your fears and finding a place that feels like home is so lovely and heartfelt. Tanya Guerrero paints a gorgeous and detailed picture of life in the Philippines – from the bustling neighborhood where Pablo lives to the nature sanctuary where his mom Carmen works to, of course, the sea. The developing relationship between Pablo and Chiqui made me laugh, cry and warmed my heart – often all at the same time. And the friends and neighbors who play a part in Pablo, Chiqui and Carmen’s lives are just as vividly drawn as the main players. This book has so much to make it a great choice for young readers, including its empathetic treatment of anxiety, a vivid setting that’s almost a character in and of itself, and a family you will fall in love with, root for and never forget.
February 5, 2021
Pablo is a twelve-year old boy with a lot of phobias. Germs, dirt, blood, animal products, anything like sand between his toes or sweat on his body; these and many other things in the the universe make him woozy and nauseated. As a result of moving with his single mother from place to place, Pablo’s fears have increased to the point where he could stand being on a very sterile island, alone. He doesn’t like himself this way, and longs to confide in someone. His very busy mom and his lack of friends make this seem impossible.
Then, Chiqui enters his life. She’s an orphaned girl, discovered living in a chicken coop. With no one else available, Pablo’s mom decides to foster her. Pablo is disgusted and horrified at this; all he sees when he looks at Chiqui is her dirt-covered body, and worse, the cleft palate that disfigures her face. As he states, “I’m not sure I even want to be near her.”
As the book, told entirely from Pablo’s POV, progresses, Chiqui’s deformity is mentioned by him less and less, and her developing, beautiful little personality more and more. Especially when he discovers that somehow, Chiqui “gets” him, understands his fears like no one else, and loves him as he is...
Profile Image for Cassie Thomas.
454 reviews16 followers
March 19, 2020
Pablo is definitely a child after my own heart. Struggling with a mental illness not quite diagnosed, but along the lines of extreme anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Pablo feels weird- out of place- partly due to his amount of fears, but also because he misses home; California, and never wanted to be a traveler of the world after his parents divorce. Now though, he has found refuge in the Philippines and a newfound family in his moms foster daughter Chiqui. This is a story of resilience, courage, family, friends, and facing any and all fears; yours or those you care about most. Highly recommend. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Profile Image for Kathie.
Author 2 books66 followers
December 5, 2019
Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

This is a book that I absolutely LOVED. It's still too fresh in my mind to review it without gushing about it, but this will definitely make it on to my list of favorites for 2020 and is a book that I HIGHLY recommend you add to your TBR lists.

Pablo has moved many times; he and his mom currently live in the Philippines but he doesn't feel like he belong anywhere. Not only does he have trouble making friends, but he has a number of fears (such as germs, dirt, the ocean), some of which he keeps hidden from his mother because she is so busy with her work. Against Pablo's wishes, she decides to foster an orphan girl named Chiqui. Pablo quickly becomes very attached to Chiqui, and also befriends Happy, the girl next door, when she offers to help him with Chiqui who only understand Tagalog and won't speak. As the story progresses, Pablo realizes that what he thought was his biggest fear, the ocean, might be easier to face than the possibility of losing Chiqui.

I fell head over heels in love with Chiqui. This little girl who lost so much has a wonderfully big heart, and a very special attachment to Kuya Pablo. Watching how she connects to him, and how it changes them both, is incredibly heartwarming. She has a cleft palate which is going to require surgery, and so she can relate to feeling different from those around her, as Pablo does with his fears. This is a relationship that will stick with me for a long time.

I also appreciated the mental health representation in this book. Pablo's fears have not led to a clinical diagnosis, but the understanding and acceptance that the adults in his life offer him (for the fears of which they're aware), is positive. Readers who struggle with anxiety, panic, and obsessive compulsive disorder may some of themselves in Pablo and his thoughts/coping strategies. I love his bravery to confront many of these fears despite them being hard, especially for the people about whom he cares.

This book comes out on March 31st, but be sure it's on your radar to pick up.
Profile Image for Emma Katherine.
271 reviews11 followers
December 23, 2019
Read my full review here: https://lifesanovelty.blogspot.com/20...

Opinions: I am overwhelmed with the amount of positive things I can say about How to Make Friends With the Sea. To start, I will simply say it is a must-read for older elementary and younger middle schoolers because of its inspirational and exceptional themes. Even as a new adult, I learned so much through Pablo's conditions, Chiqui's perseverance, and Miguel's passion. I can't just applaud the plot, though. This story wouldn't be the same without Tanya Guerrero's detailed planning, realistic views on life, and desire to spread joy and wisdom. The structure of How to Make Friends With the Sea also must be noted. This book is about no one thing; it's not about a kid with anxiety. It's not about a Filipino girl. It's not about poor parental involvement. It is a mix of things, which makes it much more powerful. There are a range of ethnicities, mindsets, and very realistic situations represented. Because there are so many more elements of the book to talk about, I will make it easy by saying overall, How to Make Friends With the Sea deserves a full five stars without a doubt.

My Favourite Thing: Of course, my favourite thing is the representation of OCD and anxiety. I have suffered from both conditions since I was ten-years-old and have since been looking for a book that fairly presents either. Things like "Obsessive Christmas Decorator" and "Obsessive Coffee Drinker" is not a kind way to include yourself, nor is saying "Oh, I always wash my hands after I use the restroom, I'm so OCD." Guerrero ran the exact opposite direction and presented the condition properly. I loved the subtle hinting of Pablo's insecurity and constant awareness of his surroundings; I felt like somebody finally understands what it's like to never be able to relax. I adore Guerrero's attention to detail, appreciation for insecurity, and desire to be inclusive.

My Least Favourite Thing: There is not a single thing I can complain about but I have one small concern. Because How to Make Friends With the Sea is focused on themes rather than plot, I fear not many elementary students will read it. This book deserves to be read and it will change the lives of many children, it just needs more publicity to balance out the lack of magic and superheroes.
Profile Image for Cathleen Barnhart.
Author 1 book30 followers
October 2, 2019
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is an important and beautiful addition to the world of Middle Grade literature. I fell in love with Pablo immediately, and I am certain that middle school kids -- especially the many, many who are dealing with anxiety -- will also love him and love this book. Pablo's struggles to control an out-of-control world are both heartbreaking and heartbreakingly real. Any child whose parents are separated or divorced, or who has had to leave a familiar home, or who has faced any of the other dislocations that children face, will immediately relate to Pablo. And will learn and grow with Pablo as comes to understand what he can and can't control and as he works heroically to challenge himself and his anxiety. Pablo's relationship with Chiqui, and his ability to rise beyond himself in the service of loving and protecting her, was so touching and inspirational. I also absolutely LOVED how the author incorporated Filipino culture and language into the book. The whole discussion about names? SOOOO interesting! I can see a class activity where students choose for themselves other names, and write about their choices. This book needs to be in every middle school, and in every middle school teacher's classroom library.
Profile Image for Arianne Costner.
Author 2 books67 followers
August 26, 2019
This book was so beautifully written and touching. I enjoyed being inside Pablo’s head. He is such a sweet, endearing kid and you root for him the whole time. I wanted to give him a big hug!

The setting is in the Philippines, which was interesting and unique! I’ve never read a book set there, and I’m so glad now I have! It sounds like a beautiful place. I learned lots of cool cultural info.

Great coming-of-age story. Enjoyable for adults as well as children. Pablo really grows throughout the story as he confronts his ocd tendencies and anxieties/learns to be honest with himself and the adults in his life. Things come to a tender end.

I especially enjoyed the sweet relationship he had with the little girl his family was essentially fostering. Having grown up with foster sibs, I related very much to the initial hesitation and eventual love that developed between them.
Profile Image for Christina.
171 reviews4 followers
December 15, 2019
If you can bear to take your eyes away from this lovely, contemplative cover then you’re in for an even more beautiful, vivid story as soon as you begin reading. HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA, Tanya Guerrero’s debut releasing 3/31/20, will transport you to the Philippines with her striking descriptions and authentic language used seamlessly throughout the heartfelt story (excellent glossary in the back as well). Twelve-year-old Pablo has the most kind and delicate soul, but is often overcome with anxiety due to his many fears. When you factor in missing his father since the divorce, and moving so often never really feeling at home, your heart will ache for him. I absolutely fell in love with Pablo and empathized with his unease as he suffers silently, not being able to confide in his mother who is always on the go. My feelings only grew for him as he meets and interacts with Chiqui, a younger, traumatized orphan girl his mother takes in. I found myself feverishly turning pages to see their relationship develop; it felt so pure with struggles and strides, but impactful for each of them nonetheless. Tanya Guerrero writes so exquisitely and develops each character with sensitivity and tenderness in their search for courage, trust, acceptance, and love. HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is an incredibly touching story about family that will surround you with warmth and waves of joy.
Profile Image for Betty Culley.
Author 4 books116 followers
September 22, 2019
I was fortunate to receive an ARC of Tanya Guerrero’s middle grade novel HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA. I read it in a day! The main character, Pablo, and Chiqui, an orphaned girl with a cleft lip who comes to stay with Pablo and his mother, both captured my heart for different reasons. I also enjoyed the loving relationship between Pablo and his mom, and the way other people who entered his life tried to understand and help him. Pablo’s journey to self-understanding and self-acceptance, as well as the way he braves his fears to help those he has grown to care for, will resonate with both middle grade readers and parents. Also, the setting in the Philippines is described so that you feel like you are seeing and hearing, smelling and tasting everything! And the interspersed Spanish and Tagalog words really enhance and enrich the reading experience. Plus there is a great glossary of words in the back of the book.
Profile Image for Kate Waggoner.
399 reviews
January 31, 2020
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for sharing a digital advanced copy of How to Make Friends with the Sea by Tanya Guerrero with me. This book will be published on March 31, 2020. All opinions are my own.

Pablo is a twelve-year-old boy who, following his parents' divorce, has moved more times than he can count. At the moment, he and his mother are living in the Philippines. Because of their moves, Pablo has had a hard time making friends and has developed many fears. He's afraid of germs, crowds, dirt, and, most of all, the ocean. His mother takes in a young orphaned girl, who they call Chiqui. She has a cleft lip and appears to be unable to speak. Pablo realizes that he needs to be strong not only for Chiqui, but for himself and he starts to work towards overcoming his fears.

How to Make Friends with the Sea was a very interesting read. This book had a lot of positive messages and covered many themes. The book doesn't seem to have a single focus. It's a bout Chiqui and her surgeries, her inability to communicate with others, and her desire to connect with someone. At the same time, it's about Pablo's anxiety, his strained relationship with his father, and his inability to communicate with his mother. It is a beautiful and powerful story. However, I will admit that it took me a little while to get into it. I think that is because it's not really plot driven. It's more of a thematic novel. Though I struggled getting into initially, the story is inspirational, and I believe this book would be a great additional to upper elementary and middle grade classroom libraries.
Profile Image for Sheila Averbuch.
Author 1 book107 followers
December 19, 2019
I loved the realistic struggle Pablo experiences in navigating his anxiety and OCD, against the backdrop of constant upheaval as his is wildlife-worker mother continually relocates then, this time to the Philippines. It's an excellent and sensitive portrayal that reminded me of another one of my favourite books, Lisa Thompson's mystery The Goldfish Boy. A great choice for young readers who love stories about bravery and family. I especially loved seeing Pablo go from dreading young Chiqui coming to live with them, to standing up at last to his mother's roaming ways and insisting all three of them become a family.
407 reviews5 followers
July 5, 2020
A lot of aspects make this a great middle grade choice, but I'd love to see more ownvoices reviews in terms of the OCD/anxiety/phobias portrayed here - the message seemed pretty significantly "mind over matter," relying on homebrew fixes and just pushing through it in a way that made me somewhat uncomfortable, especially thinking of young readers who might need more professional help and support than the texts portrays as important.
Author 4 books12 followers
September 8, 2019
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is a beautiful debut. Pablo is so sensitively drawn. In fact, all the characters are well-developed. I love how Pablo grows over the course of the story and especially adored the relationship that develops between him and Chiqui. This book may make you tear up but will leave you with a heart full of hope as well!
Profile Image for Paul Mosier.
Author 5 books120 followers
September 8, 2020
I had a great time visiting The Philippines with Pablo and Chiqui and Happy, etc. colorful, emotional, uplifting. I’m so happy for Tanya—my first ever agency sister—for her wonderful accomplishment. Can’t wait for the next!
66 reviews
March 24, 2020
This book was a beautiful story of family, love, friendship and acceptance. I appreciate that it dealt with mental health and allowed readers a way to experience what someone with anxiety and OCD goes through.
21 reviews
April 7, 2022
This was a great debut novel and I enjoyed the story of Pablo. He was a very complex character with fears that were very relatable for me. Reading his journey through all the daily challenges he had to learn to face and overcome. And in the midst of him trying to gain control over his fears, he became a champion not only for Chiqui but finally for himself.
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