A Friendly Town That's Almost Always by the Ocean!


By Kir Fox

Formats and Prices




$8.99 CAD



  1. Trade Paperback $7.99 $8.99 CAD
  2. ebook $6.99 $8.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 8, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Welcome to Topsea, the strangest place you’ll ever visit. In this town, the coves are bottomless and the pier has no end in sight. There’s a high tide and a low tide . . . and a vanishing tide. Dogs are a myth, but mermaids are totally real. And seaweed is the main ingredient in every meal-watch out, it might just start chewing you back!

New kid Davy definitely thinks Topsea is strange. His mom keeps saying they’ll get used to life in their new town-it’s just the way things are on the coast! But after his first day at Topsea School, Davy finds himself wondering: Why is his locker all the way at the bottom of the school swimming pool? Why can’t anyone remember his name? (It’s Davy!) And why does everyone act like all of this is normal?!

Through newspaper articles, stories, surveys, notifications, and more, follow Davy and the rest of Ms. Grimalkin’s fifth grade class through the weird world of Topsea. (Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact with the rubber ducks.)


To the kids who smile with all of their teeth

Seaweed Season

There are five seasons in the town of Topsea.

The usual ones: Winter, Summer, Autumn, Spring.

And one unusual one: Seaweed Season.

Seaweed Season can arrive anytime. But always after High Tide.

Everybody in Topsea agrees it’s the most annoying season. More annoying than summer, when the whole town stinks of rotten fish. More annoying than winter, with the sea fog and that stubborn single hurricane.

More treacherous, too.

During Seaweed Season, seaweed winds through the spokes of your bike tires. It wraps around your mailbox. It clings to your ankles.

Sometimes on purpose.

It wriggles in through the drains of your bathtub and kitchen sink. Worst of all, a few pieces always end up in bed with you. Under your sheets. Twisting around your toes right when you start to fall asleep.

The cafeteria workers try to make the best of Seaweed Season. But a kid can only eat so many seaweed burgers. On seaweed buns. With seaweed ketchup.

There’s one good thing about Seaweed Season: it’s short. When High Tide returns, the seaweed is gone.

Make sure you check under your sheets tonight, though.

Just in case.

Davy Jones was distressed about the location of his locker.

Maybe he was making too big a deal of it. After all, his nerves were kind of frazzled. His first day of fifth grade at Topsea School had gotten off to a bumpy start. He’d flattened his bike tire on a speed bump and ended up walking most of the way.

The walk had been a little strange, too. Because Topsea was a little strange. At least, it was to Davy. But he’d never lived on the coast before.

According to his mom, they’d get used to the oddities. Like how the lighthouse sat in the middle of town, far from the water. It was painted red and white with a lantern room at the top. It had no doors or ladders or stairs. But a lighthouse keeper lived up there, swooping light across the town every night. She’d waved at Davy through the lantern room window that morning.

Then there was the long stretch of rocks by the beach, covered with more cats than Davy could count. They stared at him with yellow eyes whenever he passed by.

And then there was the pier, which just kept going and going out into the ocean until it disappeared into the horizon.

Not to mention the schoolyard, which was all sand and dead grass that crunched beneath Davy’s feet. On the playground, the slides and swings appeared normal enough, but the jungle gym looked a whole lot like a pirate ship’s masts sticking out of the ground.

“Just a part of coastal life,” Davy muttered to himself.

That’s what his mom had said earlier that morning, when their mail had been delivered by a seagull instead of a mailperson.

“Things are just a little different here,” she’d continued, watching through the kitchen window as the bird rammed its beak into their mailbox. “When I worked at the cheese shop back home, I didn’t have to worry about cheese hiding in my shoes. Topsea’s seaweed cracker factory is another story.”

“But it’s not normal,” Davy had insisted. “Even this house is weird. The basement door is sealed shut. The wallpaper smells like fish. And it’s so small.”

His mom had given him a tired sort of smile, unwinding a stubborn strand of seaweed from her shoelaces. “Don’t worry, Davy. We’ll both adjust. We just have to try.”

Davy had nodded.

He wanted life to go back to normal. He wanted his old town with his old house and no seaweed in sight.

Most of all, he wanted his dad back.

Of course, that was impossible. Davy’s mom was right. Nothing was normal anymore, and it never would be again. He just needed to adjust.

But this whole locker thing was just plain weird.

“It’s at the bottom of the swimming pool?” Davy asked, clutching his schedule.

Mr. Zapple, the school counselor, nodded patiently. “Of course,” he said. “In the deep end. You’ll find everything you need to know about Topsea down there!”

Everything I need to know?”

“Along with all your textbooks, safe as can be.”

“But why?” Davy sputtered. “Why just my locker? Is it because I’m new?”

“Exactly!” Mr. Zapple smiled, making his extra-large ears stick out even more. “It’s our most prized locker. We wanted to make you feel welcome.”

Davy blinked several times. “But how do I—”

“Oh, I almost forgot.” The counselor pushed aside a copy of The Topsea School Gazette, then handed Davy a piece of paper. “This is a mandatory new student survey, just for my records. Feel free to take your time with it, okay?”

“Okay, but…but my locker…”

The bell rang. Mr. Zapple patted Davy’s arm. “Don’t worry, Dexter. I know starting a new school is scary, but you’ll be just fine!”

“It’s Davy,” said Davy.

He hurried down a hall with rows of red lockers. Another hall with rows of yellow lockers. He passed dozens of students, all twirling combination locks and slamming locker doors without even having to hold their breath.

At last, Davy reached the gym, where he found an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool. The kindergarten class played mermaid tag in the shallow end. Their teacher watched from a lifeguard chair. Davy walked past them to the deep end.

It was very, very deep.

Squinting, Davy spotted a small, gray rectangle at the bottom of the pool, directly beneath the diving board. He swallowed hard.

Being the new kid in school takes a lot of courage sometimes. Apparently, this was one of those times.

Davy set down his empty backpack, wishing he’d brought his swim trunks. He kicked off his tennis shoes and climbed the ladder to the diving board. He walked to the edge and looked down.

His locker was a shimmering gray dot.

Davy didn’t know how to dive. He was much better at land sports, like skeeball.

But his dad had taught him how to do cannonballs.

So Davy sucked in a giant breath and cannonballed off the diving board. The splash was huge! All the kindergartners clapped and flapped their mermaid tails in appreciation. Davy didn’t hear them, since he was already several feet underwater.

He opened his eyes, saw the gray locker, and kicked hard. He swam deeper and deeper, but his locker was still just a dot.

Finally, Davy gave up. He broke the surface of the pool right as the tardy bell rang. He climbed out, shaking the water from his shaggy, brown hair. How could he ever swim that deep? And even if he did, how was he supposed to get his books to the surface without ruining them?

And why did everyone act like this was all normal?

As Davy passed the kindergartners in the shallow end, they clapped and flapped again. “That was a wonderful cannonball,” their teacher told him.

“Thanks,” Davy said. “I’m pretty good at dog-paddling, too.”

The kindergartners giggled.

Davy drip-dropped all the way to class. Outside the door, he sucked in a huge breath like he was about to cannonball. Then he stepped inside.

“Was it High Tide this morning?” his new teacher asked. She had stripy-looking gray hair and wore tortoiseshell glasses.

“Uh, no,” Davy began. “I’m sorry I’m late. You see, my locker is at the bottom of the pool, and…”

Then he realized the teacher’s question hadn’t been for him. In fact, she hadn’t even heard him. She was talking to a girl with a long, brown braid sitting near the window.

“No, there was no High Tide this morning,” the girl said.

“And how can you tell, Nia?”

Nia pointed dramatically out the window. “Because there was no morning moon!”

“Very good.” Finally, the teacher noticed Davy standing in a giant puddle by the door. “Well, it looks like our new student is here!”

Smiling, she beckoned Davy over to her desk. Her nails were very pointy.

“We were just starting our lesson on meteorology,” she said. “I’m Ms. Grimalkin, by the way.”

“I’m sorry I’m late, Ms. Grimalkin,” Davy said nervously. “I couldn’t get to my locker, and now I’m soaking wet.”

“I understand. It’s easy to get soaked on your first day at a new school. What’s your name?”

“Davy Jones.”

Ms. Grimalkin peered at her roll sheet. “Ah, there you are!” She wrote a little check. Then she pointed to a desk beside a boy with dark skin and red wire-rimmed glasses. “You can sit next to Quincy, Daniel.”

“It’s Davy,” said Davy. “Um. Do you have a towel I could use?”

“Sorry,” Ms. Grimalkin said sympathetically. “But I’m sure there’s one in your locker.”

Davy opened his mouth. Maybe to ask why his locker was in the pool. Maybe to explain that he couldn’t dive that deep. Maybe to point out that even if he could, by the time he surfaced with the towel, it would be soaked, too.

Then he remembered he was supposed to be adjusting.

So he closed his mouth and drip-dropped over to his desk and sat down next to Quincy, who smiled at him. In fact, everyone was smiling at him. All of them at once. Davy pushed his wet hair out of his eyes, feeling self-conscious.

“I like your shirt,” Nia said. “It’s just like the legend!”

Davy glanced down at his soaked shirt. It was blue and had a picture of a dog howling at the moon. “Oh,” he said. “Thank you. What legend?”

“AROOOO!” Nia howled, and the class giggled.

Davy tried to smile. Even though he couldn’t tell if this was the kind of laughter that was with you or at you. But the other kids seemed nice. Especially Quincy, who shared his textbooks with Davy for the rest of the lesson.

In fact, things seemed almost normal.

Then came lunchtime.

Davy stood between Quincy and Nia in the hot-lunch line. A burly man in a hairnet scooped out french fries. A tattoo of a fork and a butter knife in an X shape decorated his left bicep. His name tag said Ricky.

“Fries or clams?” Ricky asked Davy, pointing to two pans. One pan was piled high with brown-and-gray clams. Some of them seemed to peek out of their shells at Davy. The other pan was empty.

Chewing his lip, Davy glanced at the clams again. Their shells slammed shut. “Um…fries?” he said.

“Okay, just a minute.” Ricky turned and bellowed, “Potato hunt! Where’s the spudzooka?”

“Right here!” a cafeteria woman called. She had thick, strong arms and a tiny spatula earring in her left ear. Her name tag said Nicky. She grabbed what looked like a miniature cannon off the wall and heaved it at Ricky.

Ricky caught the spudzooka with one hand. He pushed through the double doors to the kitchen, where Davy saw two more cafeteria workers waving a red cape in front of the ovens. He caught a glimpse of a buffalo charging them just before the doors swung closed.

“Why is there a buffalo in the kitchen?” Davy asked, alarmed.

Nia laughed. “Because tomorrow is hamburger day!”

Davy opened his mouth. Maybe to say that normal school cafeterias didn’t include wild animals. Maybe to point out that hamburger meat usually came from cows. Maybe to add that cows in a school cafeteria would also be really weird.

Then he remembered again. He was supposed to adjust.

So he closed his mouth. But he was starting to wish he’d brought a packed lunch. His dad used to make the funniest sandwiches, like pickle and peanut butter or ham and apricot jelly. They were kind of gross, but also kind of good, once you got used to the taste.

Ricky returned a minute later, sweaty and holding a pan filled with piping-hot french fries. He piled a handful on a plate for Davy. They had just the right amount of salt, although they tasted a bit like clams.

“We have real ketchup today, thank goodness,” Quincy said, dousing his french fries.

Nia nodded in agreement. “Seaweed ketchup just isn’t the same.”

Davy had never tasted seaweed ketchup. But last week, his mom had brought home a whole sack of seaweed crackers that had been overpeppered. Davy didn’t like them very much. They were far chewier than crackers should be. And sometimes they seemed to chew you back.

“You look kind of pale, Danny,” Quincy observed.

Nia gasped loudly. “Do you have food poisoning? Do you have the flu? Are you contagious?”

“No!” Davy said, although his stomach felt all twisty-turny. “I’m not sick. Please pass the ketchup.”

Quincy handed him the bottle. Davy focused on smothering his fries in ketchup, and soon Quincy and Nia were busy discussing the local water park, Hanger Cliffs, which was supposed to reopen soon. Davy loved water parks, and before long he forgot all about charging buffalos and peeking clams.

Back in the classroom, Ms. Grimalkin started a lesson on animals.

“All animals have special characteristics that make them different from other animals,” Ms. Grimalkin said. “For example, seagulls have long bills just perfect for stuffing letters in mailboxes.”

She pointed to a quiet girl with shiny pigtails and brown skin. “Talise, can you name two characteristics of fish?”

“What particular species of fish?” Talise asked.

“Fish in general,” Ms. Grimalkin said.

Talise cleared her throat. “Well, the majority have scales and breathe through gills. Some can use camouflage to hide from predators. All lack vocal cords, but many make sounds by vibrating their other muscles. They—”

“Thank you, Talise,” Ms. Grimalkin interrupted. “Let’s give someone else a turn. What about pigs?”

Nia’s hand shot up. “They have curly tails and dig with their snouts!”

“Very good. And cats?” Ms. Grimalkin asked, looking around with an extra-wide smile. “Finn, can you answer this one? Speak up.”

Finn, a tiny, pale boy with auburn hair, nodded nervously. “They have sharp claws,” he said. At least, that’s what Davy thought he said. Finn’s voice was even smaller than he was.

“And you can see all of their teeth when they smile!” added the pretty girl sitting beside Finn. She had choppy black hair and light skin. Her shirt appeared to be covered in colorful paint.

“Excellent, Runa,” Ms. Grimalkin purred. “What other animal characteristics can we think of?”

Davy glanced at Quincy, who was busy scribbling in a notebook. He was feeling better now. He’d had a nice lunch and his clothes were almost dry. So he put his hand in the air.

“Yes?” Ms. Grimalkin said.

“Dogs are good hunters,” Davy announced. “And they wag their tails when they’re happy.”

“AROOOO!” the class cried before bursting into giggles.

Davy smiled, but he felt like he’d missed a joke somewhere.

Ms. Grimalkin smiled, too. “You’re very funny,” she said. “I’m glad you’re in this class, Darwin.”

“It’s Davy,” Davy said with a sigh.

After school, Davy walked back to his new home with the sealed-up basement door and wallpaper that smelled like fish. He tried to figure out whether his first day at school had been good or bad, since he knew his mom would ask. Today definitely hadn’t been normal. But that didn’t mean it was a bad day, right? After all, weird could be good once you got used to it, like a pickle-and-peanut-butter sandwich.

Topsea was more like a crab-and-seaweed-ketchup sandwich, though. The kind of weird Davy didn’t want to get used to.

As Davy passed the rock cats, the tide suddenly rushed in.

“Ack!” he exclaimed.

Davy frowned at his soaked shoes and pants. A strand of seaweed clung to his shoelaces. “I never figured out how to get to my locker,” he realized.

The rock cats smiled at him. Davy could see all of their teeth.

The Legend of the Dogs

As transcribed from the hieroglyphics in the Untold Caves

Centuries ago, before Topsea was a town, mermaids ruled over the coast.

They lived on the rocks where the land and sea met, braiding seaweed into their hair and watching the sky for signs.

Especially signs of treachery and betrayal.

The mermaids were deeply mistrustful by nature. But they were fond of the dogs that lived near the water, paddling during High Tide and frolicking during Low Tide. The dogs fetched seaweed and performed tricks. The mermaids rewarded them by clapping and flapping their fins.

The dogs loved the mermaids. After all, mermaids are half human.

The cats watched, too. They lived on the sandy banks, sharpening their claws on the rocks and catching crabs that scuttled too far from the water.

The cats loved the mermaids. After all, mermaids are half fish.

One night, the mermaids read a warning in the stars. An enemy was plotting to take the rocks, banishing the mermaids from the coast and sending them to the depths of the ocean.

But who was the enemy?

The mermaids had noticed the hungry way the cats eyed the rocks. And so they confronted the cats first.

“Banish you out to sea?” the cats replied. “Heavens no. If anything, we’d like you to come closer. And what could we possibly want with the rocks?”

The mermaids considered this.

“If you ask us,” the cats continued, “it is the dogs who wish to take the rocks. They grow tired of performing tricks for you.”

The mermaids looked at one another. It was true, the dogs were very good at performing tricks. They really were very tricky. The dogs would probably rather rest on the rocks than perform trick after trick in the water.

The dogs, the mermaids realized with horror, were the real enemy.

So the mermaids devised a plan. They waited until a night when the moon was nowhere to be seen. Then they unwound the seaweed from their hair, leaped into the water, and challenged the dogs to a game of tug-of-war.


On Sale
Jan 8, 2019
Page Count
224 pages

Kir Fox

About the Author

Kir Fox (Kirsten Hubbard) and M. Shelley Coats (Michelle Schusterman) are great friends, longtime critique partners, and ardent consumers of the strange and unusual. Kirsten is the author of the middle-grade novels Watch the Sky and Race the Night (Disney-Hyperion), and the young adult novels Like Mandarin and Wanderlove (Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books). She lives in Los Angeles.

Michelle is the author of the middle grade series I Heart Band and The Kat Sinclair Files (Grosset/Penguin), and the middle-grade novels Olive and the Backstage Ghost and Spell & Spindle (Random House Children’s Books). She is also the coauthor of the YA novel The Pros of Cons (Scholastic). She lives in Dallas, Texas.

Learn more about this author