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Across the Risen Sea

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Neoma and Jag and their small community are 'living gentle lives' on high ground surrounded by the risen sea. When strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced, the two friends find themselves drawn into a web of secrecy and lies that endangers their whole way of life. Soon daring, loyal, Neoma must set off on a solo mission across the risen sea, determined to rescue her best friend and find the truth that will save their village.

In a post climate change affected world, this adventure with sinkholes, crocodiles, sharks, pirates, floating cities, vertical farms and a mystery to solve poses the question of how we will all live 'afterwards'. Will kindness and a sense of community win over selfish greed to preserve our planet - and humanity?


Published August 6, 2020

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About the author

Bren MacDibble

26 books69 followers
Bren lives in Kalbarri on the amazing Coral Coast of Western Australia.

Her first children's novel: How to Bee (2017) won multiple awards, The Dog Runner (2019) and Across the Risen Sea (2020) also won and were shortlisted in multiple awards. The Raven's Song (2022) written with the amazing award-winning Zana Fraillon, has recently been launched.

All her novels are packed full of wild adventures and feature children surviving environmentally changed futures. They are stories that don't mask the realities of the world children see all around them, but do offer hope, safe fictional exploration of climate issues and examples of resilience.

Bren grew up on the land in NZ, and hopes that while children enjoy these wild adventures with colourful characters, they're also acquiring ideas and language to express themselves in whatever future awaits. "It's only by talking about it that children can express their fears and develop the critical thinking they'll need to create the solutions in the future. The natural instinct to turn away from difficult discussions has not served us well so far.'

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5 stars
61 (27%)
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103 (47%)
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38 (17%)
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8 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for Yvette.
52 reviews16 followers
September 17, 2020
Very good dystopian book where the sea levels have risen and main character Neoma has to journey across the risen sea to rescue her best friend Jag.
40 reviews
August 10, 2020
Couldn't stand the unrelenting Ocker they speak in the Ockery Islands :/

Post climate change, technology is bad, people live in small groups without it. Then the feisty girl goes on an adventure and finds you can live with technology without ruining the planet.
Profile Image for Wendy Bamber.
496 reviews9 followers
August 12, 2020
The publisher calls this “another thrilling adventure” from Bren MacDibble and they’re not wrong. I found this utterly captivating, there was a sense of danger brewing constantly in the background that will keep young readers gripped. Neoma has to set off on a daring solo mission over the risen seas to uncover truths and make amends for a rash act. I love Uncle Croc, the crocodile that, once a terrifying sight on the end of her boat, becomes ensnared in Neoma’s nets and hangs on for dear life, accepting chunks of fish and buckets of sea water to keep him cool. Useless as he is, he presents to her enemies an air of intimidating wildness. The people who invade their peaceful island to install strange technology are frightening and we know they will return. Also the woman pirate who just won’t die. So good.
Profile Image for Hannah Fazakerley.
107 reviews2 followers
August 9, 2020

How have I not read any of Bren MacDibble’s books before? I have clearly been missing a trick as I have really enjoyed her third book ‘Across the Risen Sea’ which the publisher Old Barn Books very kindly sent me.

The isolated and gentle world of the peaceful Ockery Islands is one day invaded by the three tall strangers from the mysterious Valley of the Sun with their ‘Teknology’ which the islanders have chosen to leave behind. Naoma, an adventurous and independent spirit and her friend Jaguar want to find out what is going on.

Part detective mystery, part adventure at sea, this beautifully imagined novel immerses you in Naoma’s world, with glimpses of our old world left behind. As the narrator, Naoma’s childs eye view is clear and honest throughout, her child’s viewpoint works brilliantly in revealing her world to us. Neither dystopian nor utopian, perhaps the word ecotopian describes this novel more accurately, with courage and hope as the message it conveys.

Relationships are played out, friendships forged and the courage of true friends shines through this exciting story, set in a possible future for our planet. The issues of climate change are clear in the book, rising seas, sudden storms, flooded cities, displaced populations threatened by lack of resources, fear of disease for the littlies and fear of others coming to claim what is yours. Certainly food for thought for us all, children and adults alike.

I loved Naoma’s voice in this book and I enjoyed adventuring alongside her, envious of her skills and determination, in this imagined world of what the future could be like. I liked all the details about how these future people live their lives, dependent on the sea for most things. There are lots of funny moments too and little snapshots like the baby head crab house and the crocodile on the sailing boat to enjoy.

If you’ll forgive me, I’ll now be off to find Bren’s other two books ‘How to Bee’ and ‘The Dog Runner’ as I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy them just as much as this one! Happy reading!

Profile Image for Kylie.
1,305 reviews8 followers
December 20, 2020
What an excellent take on the potential post apocalyptic future of climate change for younger readers. Set in a small village that has formed up near the Sunshine Coast in Australia (much of the coast being underwater), the people live a simple life, although they seem pretty happy. They fish, they plant, they travel to other villages on the water for trade. They can still scavenge the sky scrapers of the destroyed city, from time to time - many floors are underwater due to the risen sea. There are giant crocodiles and even bigger sharks, there are references to the past times, and technology, and to walled cities inland where those who proper live good lives by the sounds of it.

I actually would love to read a lot more from this world, I want to see how the Valley of the Sun develop, if characters from Neoma's community travel to bigger places, what it is like in the cities further inland.

There is much said about living gently, and understanding what that means- the difference between harnessing solar energy versus burning wood for fires for example, is a bone of contention between two communities. So it is great for sparking that sort of thinking in the younger reader. And it is also a pure action, adventure story, with great friendship and acceptance of differences. I want to read Bren's other books now!
Profile Image for Sue M.
11 reviews
January 11, 2021
The theme of the book is good, and there is lots of adventure. I love dystopian novels and this post climate change apocalypse plot is excellent. But I found the tortuous English very difficult to read and had to translate it into English in my mind in order to finish the book.
Profile Image for Liz Derouet.
120 reviews15 followers
December 11, 2020
Original, insightful and thought provoking, along with lots of action. Full review will be posted on my blog soon!
Profile Image for Kathleen Dixon.
3,496 reviews57 followers
November 21, 2020
We all know it's happening - climate change is causing the seas to rise. Bren MacDibble has written a future where the seas have risen so much that seaside skyscrapers are half submerged and hilly land around is now islands. I'm imagining Australia's Sunshine Coast, though I don't know enough to tell if place names are referencing it. However, we have saltwater crocodiles and massive sharks and the author lives in Australia so it's somewhere up there or further north. And it's fully believable to envisage a time/place setting such as in this novel.

Impetuous Neoma is a great character. She gets into all sorts of trouble, but sometimes it's people just like her that we need in order to create change. This book has some great adventure and memorable characters - a good read indeed!
Profile Image for Anna Davidson.
1,387 reviews13 followers
October 17, 2020
3.5* I have loved Bren's other incredible middle grade books and was keenly awaiting the release of Across the Risen Sea. It took me ages to be hooked into the story, but once I was (at about the 1/3 mark), it was an action packed adventure with some delightful characters. As with all Bren's middle grade novels, there are strong environmental themes in this book; I particularly love the idea of 'living gently'. In hindsight, I think I would have enjoyed this book more in one or two sittings as opposed to a chapter or two each night; I will certainly be re-reading Across the Risen Sea and I think it will be even better on the re-read.
348 reviews12 followers
August 29, 2020
Another great novel from Bren MacDibble, this time it's set in a dystopian community on an island in an inland sea formed by rising sea levels. There is plenty of action in this book - terrifyingly large sharks, a lazy old croc, a wily old sea pirate - but there are also some lovely messages towards the end about community and looking after the planet and one another. Very, very enjoyable and hard to put down.
Profile Image for Penny.
253 reviews6 followers
September 23, 2020
Bren MacDibble is a kiwi author, who has been claimed by Australia, and who is the author of How to Bee and The Dog Runner, as well as In the Dark Spaces writing as Cally Black (for YA readers.)

How to Bee, The Dog Runner and Across the Risen Sea are all dystopian style novels, but aimed at a younger audience than the usual YA.

I loved How to Bee; I confess I struggled with The Dog Runner; and I have just finished the amazing Across the Risen Sea. It is definitely my favourite so far, full of edge-of-the-seat action, nail-biting tension, super strong characters and most excellent humour.

Best mates Neoma and Jag live gentle lives (what a cool term!) in a small community somewhere in northern Australia (although we are never told where - I deduced this from the mention of the heat and the fact that the community go salvaging in tall buildings... Gold Coast?) after the sea has risen considerably and forced people to find other ways of surviving.

When the mysterious siblings from the Valley of the Sun appear and start to construct strange technologies on their hill, Neoma and Jag start to investigate a little further. This investigation leads to tragic events, which see Jag captured by the people from the Valley of the Sun. Neoma feels responsible and makes chase - so beginning some of the best adventure writing I have read in a while.

She encounters the seemingly undefeatable, and frankly terrifying, Pirate Bradshaw, who keeps reappearing like some creature from a horror show; she has to outwit hungry sharks; and best of all she manages to accidentally adopt a hungry, and therefore grumpy, crocodile.

The pictures the author paints are fantastic and I think this would make a great readaloud... although the reader would have to get used to the loose vernacular of the characters.
Profile Image for Jane.
465 reviews5 followers
August 13, 2020
Another wonderful MG dystopia from MacDibble, with a strong voice and plenty of action weaved into a rather bleak post climate disaster world. A great one for fans of adventure/action.
Profile Image for Julia Smith.
438 reviews34 followers
February 4, 2022
In a world devasted by climate change with the destruction of all coastal and low-lying cities due to rising sea levels, we meet one group of survivors living a gentle, sustainable island life. Until one of their group gets kidnapped. Our heroine, Neoma, sets out to rescue her best friend and encounters crocodiles, sharks, pirates, and floating cities.

This is an absolute gem of an adventure embodying courage and friendship with lovely messages on looking after our planet and one another. And, did I mention PIRATES!
Profile Image for Dianne Wolfer.
Author 27 books26 followers
August 16, 2020
I love Bren's dystopian Australian settings, in this and earlier books. The characters are strong and believable and Uncle Croc was a fun inclusion!
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 23 books39 followers
August 16, 2020
A thrilling adventure with a bold main character and awesome voice. Early midgrade dystopian with a dash of humour. If you loved How To Bee you will love this one too.
Profile Image for Hannah.
584 reviews5 followers
October 5, 2021
I found this a real slog and didn’t enjoy it at all.
Profile Image for Jessica M.
627 reviews8 followers
August 30, 2020

Across the Risen Sea is the latest middle grade adventure novel by Bren MacDibble, set within a small island community surrounded by a rising sea. Strangers arrive unannounced, carrying secrets with them, and then protagonist Neoma must embark on a solo mission across the ocean to rescue her best friend Jag.

In this somewhat dystopian setting, the rising sea has formed an inland sea with small islands. Communities on these islands do not deal with currency or money — they rely on fishing and growing their own food, and they use their boats to scrounge abandoned cities for materials.

Courage and determination are key themes explored in the book, as well as the power of family and friendship, and the importance of trusting your instincts. You do have to stretch your imagination for this one. A crocodile in the boat? A pirate who can out-swim a shark and fight them off when threatened? There are definitely a few moments of absurdity, but what children’s adventure novel doesn’t have these?

“I push through some big double doors and I’m in a room with everything built from shiny steel. There’s a rack with all kinds of glass jars with lots of different coloured herbs and spices and pots and pans on every shelf and giant spoons hanging from hooks, and knives, sharper than any Jag’s got on his belt.”

Across the Risen Sea is written in Neoma’s first person POV, allowing the reader to intimately follow Neoma’s journey across the ocean. Neoma is brave, curious and feisty — she’s got true grit, and she’s not afraid to venture into the unknown. She knows how to hold her own, and she’s got quick instincts that rival the adults around her. Additionally, her voice feels quite unique to the genre. It could be a little polarising with readers — some will love it, some might not — but overall, she drives the story forward with her inquisitive nature and her dogged determination.

One of my favourite parts of the book was when we arrive at the Valley of the Sun. No spoilers, but their home felt really unique and unexpected and I think Bren was really clever at crafting this setting. Children will no doubt find themselves enraptured by the homeland of the Valley of the Sun.

“The storm blows us on, throws waves at our backs, each wave sloshing a little more water and foam into the boat behind us, so I reckon whoever’s in there’s prolly gonna drown, if the boat don’t sink before we get to our bay. Soon the rain joins the waves sloshing at us and the lightning kicks and stomps all around the sea beside us.”

Okay, a couple of things I struggled with in the book. The plot does meander quite a bit — the journey feels quite slow and monotonous, the characters don’t seem overly engrossing for the long run . And I’m wondering — and this is more a ‘big picture’ thought — how fun is this book for kids to read? Much like Bren’s other books, there are messages and themes about climate change, environment and society’s treatment of others during a time of crisis. And whilst this is important to read, is it…fun?

I’ve read all of Bren’s books, and this one just didn’t feel as action-packed full of adventure as the others. An ocean journey to find a lost child means that there is quite a small cast of characters, and I wonder if it’s enough to enthral a young reader. Personally, I found my attention waning because the plot was a little same-same. Will this entice young teen readers? Will it keep their attention long enough to get them to the final page? You don’t have long to engage a young reader, and there’s so much competition out there. I just wonder if this story might perhaps be better suited for the older end of the age demographic, and those who are seasoned readers. I’m not entirely convinced that this book will appeal to reluctant readers.

For ages 9-13.

Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for WhatBookNext .com.
829 reviews29 followers
August 2, 2020
The world has changed. Oceans have risen, high waves gobbling up land. The sun is merciless, and storms form
quickly. More than a decade has passed since Cyclone Summer - a time when vicious storms overcame the walls rich coast dwellers had built against the rising sea. Others had moved inland but the wealthy fought for their seaside multi story buildings. Now they are left flooded and empty, to be picked over by anyone on salvage missions.

Neoma lives with her family in a small settlement in the Ockery Islands, having left most of technology far behind a generation before. They live a simple life, with a diet of fish, eggs and what they can grow. Neoma is a bright adventurous tween, loving to fish, explore and salvage, and hang out with her best friend Jag (Jaguar).

One day tall strangers arrive, sailing into their bay and walking through their village as if they own it. Despite the villager's protests, the strangers chop down their trees, dig holes and then build a strange structure - all on a nearby hill. They are people from the Valley of the Sun and as suddenly as they arrived, they sail away again, leaving the villagers mystified.

A trip to nearby islands to learn more reveals nothing. But a terrible discovery on the way home soon puts their entire village in danger. When the Valley of the Sun people return, looking for missing loved ones and discovering vandalism to their structure, Neoma's friend Jag is taken in payment. Feeling responsible, Neoma knows she must get him back.

Neoma's rescue mission encounters a cranky crocodile, a hungry, determined shark, a ruthless pirate and her slave. Again and again Neoma's courage is tested, as the Valley of the Sun is revealed, and the damning mystery of the missing strangers becomes clearer.

Neoma is a feisty brave character, proud to be a doer, not a watcher. She tells her story in English changed slightly through a time of climate change and upheaval. The oceans have risen, wiping out coastal cities but leaving buildings to salvage.

Neoma's village on a small island uses sparse but clean technology of solar power. A diet of fish, eggs and vegetables accompanies their 'gentle' life. When tall strangers arrive, chop down trees and build a strange structure, all the while ignoring the islander's pleas for an explanation, life suddenly changes for Neoma and her kin.

Her curiosity both condemns and saves them, and her courage and loyalty to her best friend drives an exciting story of rescue, battling crocodiles, sharks and a ruthless pirate. The third novel from this multi-award winning NZ author, Across the Risen Sea follows her theme of climate change as in How to Bee and The Dog Runner. It's a heart-stopping adventure, with a mystery, bravery and friendship all rolled in to one.
Profile Image for Klee.
367 reviews13 followers
December 3, 2021
"We each do all we can to live low – impact lives. Our electric stove tops are no worse than your water – drawing windmill there. Let’s not lose sight of what really matters here, old friend. Living gentle lives."

I would highly recommend this dystopian text for middle schoolers / intermediate aged children. The water levels have risen, as a result of climate change, and people are now living on islands, in what looks like Australia. We meet a community living a post-apocalyptic life. Life is relatively simple. The sense of community care is strong and "living gentle" lives is the goal. One day, other people turn up, and install technology on the island without query. This sets off a chain of events, for our protagonist Neoma, what will change their lives forever.

This book is all about adventure, having courage, being resilient, showing loyalty, and of course, the irreparable nature of climate change. It subtly dabbles in ideas around colonisation and inequity. This book is a great stepping stone for 9 - 13 year olds into dystopian worlds. Get this in your school library today!

"Swimming is easy for me. This is why it’s me in the water, swimming to save my two friends, and I can’t let them down. Jus’ like Saleesi will swing that big knife for me, or Jag would be taken so far away for me, I can’t let them down."
Profile Image for Kate.
Author 5 books7 followers
January 20, 2021
This story has it all for readers who love adventure. Crazy pirates, crocs, sharks, sailing about on a catamaran on the risen sea... a futuristic Valley of the Sun and a people who live gently on this earth. There is mystery and friendship, great character arcs, and community. The story is told in the youthful unschooled voice of Neoma, which both added authenticity and made it slightly more challenging to read. The challenge pays off, as we really feel connected to her and her fishing folk world. My favourite of the three recent books written by Macdibble. I’ll be recommending this to our y5/6 teachers as a read aloud.
Profile Image for Jennie.
881 reviews
April 4, 2021
Set in a future ravaged by climate change and rising seas, the story focuses on a society living on one of a series of islands where technology is avoided due to the harm done in the past. When three strangers arrive a set up a transmitting station young Neoma and her cautious friend Jag become embroiled in dangerous events that effect the tranquility and safety of the community.
An entertaining and engaging story that skirts around deeper issues of politics, power and survival in a damaged future world. Coverage of these issues is superficial, and perhaps because of the intended audience of 10 to 13 year olds, but it just doesn’t quit pack the punch that it could.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 2 books23 followers
September 12, 2021
Crocodiles, sharks, pirates -- this story has it all! A fantastic middle-grade climate fiction book about what it's like after the sea has risen (which it will). When the Valley of Sun people erect Technology on Ockery Islands (where they have sworn off technology), Neoma and her best friend Jag get into trouble. Neoma sets off to rescue Jag. What she discovers and her sense of fairness manages to right some wrongs.

I'm thinking this is a new sub-genre: dystopian with hope. Also: I am grateful to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow who showcased this book and made it available for free for one week.

Note: Exquisite example of voice.
Profile Image for Fern.
272 reviews12 followers
August 31, 2020
An epic and timely tale of courage, community, and resilience, set in a post climate change affected world of risen seas and floating cities.

Boldly entertaining (cranky crocodiles and hungry sharks!) and powerfully thought-provoking, Across the Risen Sea is such a unique and cleverly crafted story. Written in a first person narrative, MacDibble completely immerses you in a world of adventure, mystery, and danger, whilst igniting a flame of hope, change and empowerment within its readers.

A worthy read.
Profile Image for Jacqueline Hodder.
Author 1 book25 followers
January 3, 2021
I've been reading middle grade fiction in research for editing my own middle grade novel (due out early 2021). MacDibble's novel was recommended as similar to the concept I am aiming for and I did enjoy this novel very much. Neoma's (the main character's) voice is so unique and the world building is very well realised. Sometimes I think the plot got a little far fetched but that's from an adult point of view. I think kids would love this story, especially as Neoma is such a lark. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Hya.
22 reviews
January 23, 2022
A tale of a post climate disaster future from fast rising seas. Fledgling communities in what becomes the edge of civilisation try to live gently. Told from the delightful point of view of Neoma a young adventurous, resilient and wild child. I was absolutely riveted and delighted, and read the entire book in a couple of hours. It had flavours of both crocodile dundee and waterworld. Some challenging themes that younger children may need support with, I would recommend this as a classroom read for 8+.
304 reviews
June 18, 2021
Great story for middle grade readers about a dystopian future where a group of people live gently and kindly on hilltops away from the risen waters. When the ‘law’ threatens their way of life, Neoma, the young protagonist, steps in to help. Strong female characters and an exciting adventure would appeal to readers aged 10+.
December 28, 2022
I didn’t mind this one as much as How to Bee. This one had an okay thing going, and there was more of an adventure concept going with exploring the sea, islands, and a few different things making it a bit more mysterious. I reckon 6 year old me wouldn’t have minded it. 13 year old me though? Not so much. :)
Profile Image for Mrs Waring.
121 reviews2 followers
August 22, 2020
This post-climate change story of adventure and mystery has a bit of everything: friendship, family, sailing, pirates, crocodiles, sharks, floating cities, abandoned cities, kidnapping, slavery, politics, diplomacy and environmental issues.
Profile Image for Debbie Williams.
257 reviews
July 20, 2021
A very different kind of story. Part adventure, part dystopian with a save the planet message. I like the writing - it has it's own particular voice - but the post apocalyptic message doesn't make for happy, hopefilled reading.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews

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