The Extremely High Tide!


By Kir Fox

By M. Shelley Coats

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Talise knows more about the ocean than any kid in Topsea. Any adult, too. As the best-and only-bathymetrist in Topsea, Talise is able to predict important things about the sea, like the next tide (Severely Low with a threat of Wildcard) or the arrival of Seaweed Season. What she can’t predict, however, are her classmates’ behaviors. Sometimes it’s as if they’re speaking different languages.

When Talise discovers a mysterious message in a bottle, her classmates believe it must have been sent by someone stranded on a deserted island. (Not to be confused with a dessert island.) But Talise is convinced the message is meant for her. And it’s telling her to build a boat.

Everyone seems to think Talise is just being silly. Even Talise isn’t exactly sure why she has to build the boat. And who keeps sending those strange bottled messages, anyway? All Talise knows is that she’d better finish building her boat fast, because an Extremely High Tide is coming?


Text copyright © 2019 by Kirsten Hubbard and Michelle Schusterman

Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Rachel Sanson

Cover illustration © 2019 by Rachel Sanson

Designed by Maria Elias

Cover design by Maria Elias and Mary Claire Cruz

All rights reserved. Published by Disney Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.

ISBN 978-1-368-00052-9


For the kids who speak their own language

The Endless Pier

There is only one pier in the town of Topsea.

There are also quite a few docks. A boardwalk that would make a great racetrack, if you don’t mind a troll shouting at you. But there is only one pier.

Fortunately, it’s endless.

“Endless?” you might ask. “How can a pier be endless? Even the Endless Nachos at Nico’s Taqueria end when he runs out of seaweed chips.”

Good point. To figure it out, we should probably start at the beginning.

The beginning of the endless pier, we mean. It starts right here, on Topsea’s beaches. Let’s walk along it, shall we?

(Oops! Watch out for that broken plank!)

Everything has a beginning. And an ending, too. Like this book you’re holding. There’s a first page and a last page, right? Unless the rock cats got to it—they really like spoiling the endings of things.

If everything has an ending, that means this pier does, too.

But where? A little math might help. If the pier is twice as long as we’ve walked, that means we’re halfway. Should we keep going? Or should we turn back?

(Look at those bubbles in the water. . . . Never mind, they’re gone.)

How long have we been walking?

It feels like forever. But that can’t be true. We know we started on Topsea’s beaches, even if we can’t see them from here. Before we saw the bubbles. Before the broken plank. We started at the beginning. Right?

Do we know for sure?

Maybe the pier ends on Topsea’s beaches.

Maybe we started at the ending without realizing it.

And maybe, wherever the pier actually begins, somebody—or something—is walking toward us, too.

In the town of Topsea, there is only one pier.


“Drat,” Talise muttered.

Quickly, she yanked her hand from her backpack and zipped it shut. She hoped nobody else in Ms. Grimalkin’s fifth-grade class had heard the telltale sound.

“Was that a rubber duck?” Runa asked, leaning across the aisle. She had black hair cut into angles. Her cheeks had paint on them.

Talise was no good at lying. “Quite possibly,” she said with a sigh.

“Rubber ducks are dangerous!” Jules exclaimed, leaning across the other aisle. She had blond hair curled into spirals. Her cheeks had freckles on them.

“Not necessarily,” Talise said. “They’re only dangerous if they have eyes. I avoided looking inside my backpack just in case.”

“Is anything the matter?” Ms. Grimalkin asked.

“Talise has a rubber duck in her backpack,” Jules told their teacher.

Now everyone in class was staring. Talise started to feel upset on the inside. She disliked people staring at her. Possibly even more than rubber ducks.

And she really disliked rubber ducks!

Rubber ducks with rubbed-off eyes seemed to pop up everywhere Talise went. She found them stuffed in her bag of scuba gear. Hiding in her clam chowder. Bobbing in her extra-deep soaking bathtub. Once, she’d heard a knock at the door and opened it to find rubbed-off eyes gazing at her from the front porch.

Ms. Grimalkin walked over to Talise’s desk. “Do you have a rubber duck in your backpack, Talise?” she asked.

“I may or may not.” It wasn’t a lie, because Talise hadn’t actually seen the rubber duck.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Jules protested.

“Sure it does,” Runa said helpfully. “If you think about it, everybody’s backpacks may or may not have rubber ducks in them.”

Quincy gasped so hard his glasses fell off. “Oh dear!”

Davy scratched his head. “Wait—both can’t be true at the same time.”

“Unless neither is!” Nia said dramatically.

“Nobody can be sure until they check,” Finn added in a diplomatic manner.

Ms. Grimalkin massaged her temples. “That’s enough, everyone. Talise, would you please unzip your backpack?”

Talise unzipped her backpack. A rubber duck stared back at her. It didn’t have any eyes, but her classmates still recoiled.

“Drat,” Talise said. She disliked rubber ducks staring at her most of all.

While the other kids went to recess, Talise joined Ms. Grimalkin at her desk. She had stripy-looking gray hair and extremely sharp nails. But behind her tortoiseshell glasses, her eyes were kind. “Why did you bring a rubber duck to school, Talise?” she asked.

“I thought it was my sea blob,” Talise replied.

“Your sea blob?”

“Not a live sea blob, an inanimate one. Made of foam. Clara gave it to me.” Clara was Talise’s therapist. They met once a week and talked about all kinds of things. She had told Talise to squeeze the sea blob anytime she felt anxious. “I was very tired this morning. I must have grabbed a rubber duck instead.”

“I’m glad your sessions with Clara have been helpful,” Ms. Grimalkin said. “But why were you tired this morning?”

“Because of the ocean.”

“The ocean?”

“I was working on my math homework,” Talise explained. “Then I started thinking about how two-thirds of the earth’s surface is ocean. And how ninety-five percent of the ocean is still undiscovered. You see, there’s the deep sea, and the deep-deep sea, and the even deeper sea than that—”

“Did you finish your math homework?” Ms. Grimalkin interrupted.

“I did not,” Talise said.

“Well, thank you for being truthful.”

“You’re welcome.”

Ms. Grimalkin drummed her pointy fingernails on her desk. “How about this. If you spend the rest of recess finishing your homework, I’ll take the whole class to the beach this afternoon! What do you think?”

Talise nodded politely. “I feel very thrilled, thank you.”

First, Talise pulled on her wet suit, flippers, and mask. Next, she strapped on her air tank, weight belt, and buoyancy vest. Last of all, she grabbed her depth gauge, underwater compass, and logbook: the waterproof notepad she used to log her dives.

She popped her regulator into her mouth. Then she flip-flipped over the sand to the rest of the class.

“Blurp blop bloop,” she said.

“Talise,” Ms. Grimalkin said. “We’re only beachcombing today. If you’d needed diving equipment, I would have told you.”

Talise glanced at her classmates, who were staring at her again. Even though the big blue ocean was right there beside them, they all wore land clothes. (Except for Nia’s watch hog, Earl Grey. He didn’t wear any clothes—unless you counted the teacup Nia had tied to his tail with a purple ribbon.)

“Blaaaaaargh,” Talise sighed into her regulator.

There were many things Talise understood long before her classmates did. Like when Seaweed Season was approaching. (In approximately thirty-four days.)

Or what next Saturday’s tide might be. (Severely Low with a threat of Wildcard.)

Or how to identify every tooth that washed up on Topsea’s beaches. (Even before the Town Committee for Dental and Coastal Hygiene released its annual guide.)

As Topsea’s only bathymetrist, Talise had studied the ocean more than anyone in Topsea. And now that she had a deep-sea-diving license, she didn’t need to wait for a Vanishing Tide to explore it!

Her classmates found that very impressive.

But they understood many other things long before Talise did. Like when a wet suit was appropriate. (Talise would wear hers every day if she could.)

Or the difference between telling a story and lying.

Or each other. Talise’s classmates understood each other immediately. But it took Talise a little extra effort.

“Sometimes, it’s like they speak another language,” Talise had complained to Clara during one therapy session. “Or lots of different ones.”

“More like different dialects,” Clara had suggested.

“What are dialects?”

“Dialects are different ways of speaking the same language,” Clara had explained. “For example, Spanish is spoken differently in Mexico and Puerto Rico, where I’m from. Or Chile and Honduras. Even in different parts of Spain! Once you’ve figured out your classmates’ dialects, perhaps you’ll understand them more easily.”

Talise had liked that. “Do blue whales use different dialects in different parts of the ocean?”

Clara had smiled. “They probably do.”

Once she had put on her land clothes, Talise rejoined the rest of the class. Ms. Grimalkin was handing out buckets and beachcombs.

“Collect anything odd or exceptional that you find,” the teacher said. “According to the Town Committee for Tideland and Bath Toy Safety, even more peculiar items have been washing ashore lately.”

“Oh, how mysterious!” Nia hopped up and down. So did her long, brown braid. Earl Grey tried to hop, but his hooves never left the ground.

“There is probably a logical explanation,” Talise said.

“What’s the fun in that?”

Nia’s dialect was Ecstatic/Dramatic. One time, Talise’s mother had arranged for Talise to play at Nia’s house, and they’d spent the afternoon watching Mexican soap operas with Nia’s nanny. All the characters were very dramatic. Talise understood Nia’s dialect a bit more after that.

“Everybody, partner up!” Ms. Grimalkin said. “I’m off to find some lunch.”

As usual, the best friends reached for their best friends. Finn reached for Runa’s hand. Nia reached for Jules’s hand. Davy reached for Quincy’s hand. Talise reached for her sea blob, then remembered she’d left it at home.

Oh dear,” Quincy said. “You don’t have a partner again?”

Quincy’s dialect was Considerate/Overwhelmed. He was probably the kindest kid Talise knew. He always thought about others—so much it occasionally made him anxious. That was a feeling Talise understood extremely well.

“I don’t mind working alone,” she told him. It was true. (Even if she had to remind herself sometimes.)

“She’ll be fine,” Nia said. “Talise knows more about the ocean than any kid in Topsea!”

“I know more about the ocean than any grown-up in Topsea, too,” Talise said.

Jules raised her eyebrows. “Is that a fact?”

Jules’s dialect was Clever/Overbearing. As the fifth grade’s star reporter of the Topsea Gazette, she could get to the bottom of any mystery. Talise appreciated her attention to detail. Although sometimes Jules cared so much about being factual she clashed with her classmates.

“Because bathymetrists mainly study the bottom of the ocean, right?” Jules continued. “The lighthouse keeper probably knows more about the top—”

“Where is the lighthouse keeper, anyway?” Runa asked.

As the other kids turned to look at the lighthouse, Talise walked away. She glanced back once, but nobody seemed to notice she’d left.

“I don’t mind working alone,” she reminded herself.

It was better that way. Talise’s classmates didn’t really share her interests—and Ms. Grimalkin usually gave her extra credit, which she liked.

And as long as she had the ocean, she was never truly alone.

Talise walked along the shoreline. Currently, it was Low Tide verging on Severely Low, so there was a lot to see. Tide pools bustled with activity. Gulls and plovers pecked for meals. The air was approximately 67 degrees Fahrenheit, while the ocean was closer to 59 degrees. It would be even colder at the bottom, but that’s what a wet suit was for.

“I bet I’d find tons of peculiar items on the ocean floor,” Talise said.

But the assignment was beachcombing, not seacombing, so she began to search the sand. All she found was a flamingo tongue, a kitten’s paw, and a handful of baby ears.

“Just a bunch of common shells,” she sighed.

After a while, Davy and Quincy caught up with Talise. “Look what I found!” Davy said, his eyes bright. “Do you think it’s a fang?”

Davy’s dialect was Eager/Brave. He was the newest kid in Ms. Grimalkin’s class. Everybody liked him, including Talise—even though he already seemed to understand Topsea’s dialects better than she did.

“Indeed,” Talise replied. “Do either of you have a toothbrush?”

“Why would I—” Davy began.

“Of course!” Quincy interrupted, pulling one from his pocket.

Talise used it to scrub dirt off the fang’s nonpointy end. “I’m trying to determine if it has been broken off or snapped off,” she explained.

Davy blink-blinked. “What’s the difference?”

“Snapped-off fangs are mostly useless.”

“Uh, I understand,” Davy said. But his brow was furrowed, which usually meant a person didn’t understand. So was he lying?

Talise was about to ask—but then she noticed an odd collection of bubbles at the water’s edge, near Finn and Runa. She hurried over, then crouched down to check if any of them were rubber-duck eyes.

No eyes, only bubbles. Talise smiled.

When she stood up, Runa and Finn were smiling, too. “It’s nice to see you in a good mood!” Finn exclaimed in his tiny voice.

“I am usually in a good mood,” Talise said. “It just doesn’t always show on the outside.”

“Like the lighthouse keeper,” Finn joked.

Finn’s dialect was Friendly/Mouse. He was very polite, but also made funny jokes sometimes. At least, the other kids laughed. (When they managed to hear him.) Jokes weren’t always logical, and sometimes it took Talise a little extra effort to figure out why they were funny.

“The lighthouse keeper does go outside the lighthouse!” Runa said. “One time, I saw her dive into the ocean and start swimming. She just kept swimming and swimming—even past the end of the endless pier. . . .”

Talise still hadn’t figured out Runa’s dialect.

That was because Talise rarely knew when she was telling the truth, and when she was making something up. Runa painted, too. Her paintings made even less sense than her stories. But then, Talise never really saw the point of art in the first place.

Sometimes, asking a question helped Talise figure out the truth. “Did the lighthouse keeper have the appropriate diving gear?” she asked.

Other times, it backfired. “Even I didn’t believe that one!” Finn said, giggling. “The pier has no end.”

Talise felt embarrassed on the inside. It made her want to jump into the ocean and keep swimming, just like the lighthouse keeper. Not just out to sea, but into sea. The deeper, the better. All the most interesting things were below the surface.

If Talise had the choice, she’d live in the ocean forever and ever.

She glanced away—and noticed the odd bubbles again. Even if none were rubber-duck eyes, she had a funny feeling about them.

Was there something interesting below the surface?

Talise flexed her fingers, then jammed her hand into the sand. At first, all she felt was a squishy, mucky sensation. It was quite pleasant. Then she touched something hard. She wiggled her fingers until they were wrapped around it. Using all her strength, she pulled it out.


The sound was so loud all her classmates came running.

“Is that a bottle?” Finn asked.

It was a bottle. More specifically, a barnacle-covered bottle with a salt-crusted cork jammed in one end. Talise pried it out— POP. Then she peered inside, keeping a safe distance from the mouth of the bottle, in case a crab tried to pinch her eyeball. It had happened before.

“Is there something inside?” Quincy asked.

There was something inside. Talise shook a small, rolled-up piece of paper into her hand. When she looked more closely, she saw it wasn’t actually paper—it was a very thin piece of tree bark.

“Does it have writing on it?” Jules asked.

It had writing on it. All the kids leaned in to read except Nia, who jumped up and down exclaiming, “What does it say? What does it say?”

The kids all stared at each other.

“Hull . . .” Runa read. “Maybe they’re just saying hullo?”

“Hullo?” Finn repeated.

“It’s how they say hello in Great Britain.”

“But look at the first letters,” Quincy said, sounding worried. “They spell out HELP!”

Nia clapped her hands over her mouth. “Maybe somebody’s stranded on a desert island! That happened in one of Nanny’s telenovelas.”

“You mean a deserted island,” Jules said.

“That’s what I said!”

“No, you said ‘desert.’ ‘Deserted’ means there’s nobody there. Is there even such a thing as a desert island?”

“Certainly,” Talise said. “Some islands contain deserts. Of course, it depends on what hemisphere the island is located in, and also the size of the island. The larger the island, the more likely—”

“So somebody’s stranded on some kind of island,” Davy said. “Maybe.”

“That bottle is ancient!” Jules said. “It’s not trying to tell us anything at all.”


On Sale
Jan 8, 2019
Page Count
208 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