#Kidlitexchange Partner: When your multiple-greats grandfather was THE Captain Nemo (remember, son of a deposed Indian Raja) either you become a hashtag richkidofInstagram OR you become a twelve-year-old mad scientist, marine biologist, and swashbuckling submarine badass. Fortunately for this book, Gabriel Nemo chose the latter.


Thanks to Kidlitexchange and Feiwel & Friends for the ARC of Jason Henderson’s Middle Grade sci-fi YOUNG CAPTAIN NEMO. All opinions are my own.


‘Fractured retelling of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA littered with Easter eggs that will have Jules Verne fans geeking out’ is an accurate description. However, a reader who’s never even heard of The Nautilus will devour this timely STEM / sci-fi adventure story.

Gabriel Nemo was raised in relative seclusion on his parents’ underwater marine technology lab for the first twelve years of his life. We meet him shortly after he was left to live alone in a small town reminiscent of Malibu, to be in ambassador from Nemo Labs to the mere mortals.

Life is boring until one of Gabriel’s small rescue missions (dramatic evacuation of a little boy from a toilet in an on-fire dinner cruise ship) confirms the existence of a cryptid species straight out of the pages of a pulpy 50s sci-fi flick.


These beasts are called “Lodgers” because they use sunken warplanes and submarines like hermit crab shells. And if that wasn’t scary enough, their massive giant squid tentacles, and propensity to “hug“ other ships and submarines, means people pretty much ignore the fact that they seem to be eating the Pacific Garbage Patch.


All Gabriel needs to do is convince the giant beasts he’s their friend, and guide them to NemoLab for protection and research. Oh, and face off with the US Navy, who are intent on destroying the “monsters”.

Piece of seaweed cake.


Gabriel does not get relatable until midway through the book, which is definitely more than we can say for the original Captain Nemo. However, the first act storyline is such a string of shiny objects that while I was trying to decide whether or not I was into this one, I realized I was 150 pages in and it was 1 AM. Oops.



  • Gorgeous descriptions of the phosphorescent deep sea;

  • Initial perceived theme of self-preservation vs biodiversity resolves itself (great lessons for kids);

  • Much of this book is set on a giant (sadly, real) island of floating garbage amidst giant squid/hermit crab/biplane monsters that eat trash and submarines. Coolness factor is extreme, even for science kids who find reading boring and for readers who find science boring.

  • Cast of diverse (and, highly-educated or in the process of becoming that way) characters doing cool things.


Give to:

Fans of Percy Jackson/Rick Riordan and Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius series; Fans of Jules Verne and kids you hope will become fans of Jules Verne.

Would be a nice companion book with Fred Koehler’s GARBAGE ISLAND.

I’m looking forward to the Nemos’ next adventure!


YOUNG CAPTAIN NEMO launches Mar 12, 2019 from Feiwel & Friends.


Rating: 4.5 garbage-eating giant squid/hermit crab hybrids (that I hope to God don’t actually exist)

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