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Children's Fiction Environment

When the Ocean Came to Town

by (author) Sal Sawler & Emma FitzGerald

Nimbus Publishing
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
Environment, Disasters, Weather
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2


A love letter to the ocean, and to adapting to climate change, the newest picture book by award-winning creators Sal Sawler and Emma FitzGerald will inspire young readers to build better solutions, and communities.

A great storm is coming.

Gretchen loves the ocean. She dreams of going to the beach on her own, with no one to make her leave before she's ready. But between whispers of oil, plastic, and a rising sea, her parents warn her not to underestimate the strength of the water. A great storm is coming and everyone, big and small, must prepare to meet it when it does.

Gretchen soon sees the ocean's power firsthand when the tides rise high enough to threaten her home. Can she help her neighbours rebuild after the storm is over, or is the damage too great?

With a strong message of community-building and climate activism, this charming debut children's picture book from celebrated author Sal Sawler and award-winning illustrator Emma FitzGerald will inspire young readers to rebuild better, together.

About the authors

Sal Sawler is the award-winning author of four books including this one. They worked with YouTube star Frankie MacDonald to write Be Prepared: The Frankie MacDonald Guide to Life, the Weather, and Everything, which won a Moonbeam Children's Award, and was shortlisted for Yellow Cedar and Hackmatack Awards. Their second book, 100 Things You Don't Know About Atlantic Canada (For Kids), was also shortlisted for a Hackmatack Award. If they aren't busy writing, they're probably marketing or editing a graphic novel for Conundrum Press, facilitating a workshop, or daydreaming about ocean waterslides. They live and work in Kjipuktuk/Halifax.

Sal Sawler's profile page

EMMA FITZGERALD was born in Lesotho, a small mountainous kingdom in Southern Africa. Her early travels have given her a large appetite for adventure. Combining her interest in people and places, Emma followed a career path that was part architecture, part art. She received her BFA in Visual Art at the University of British Columbia, spending her third year at Lâ??Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where she honed her drawing skills. She then completed her undergraduate and masterâ??s degrees in Architecture at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She has worked in architecture offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, and across Canada.

While working in Gambia, Emma took students onto the streets of their own communities, using sketching as their primary learning tool. When she returned to Halifax, drawing became an act of connecting with the many stories and unofficial histories of the area, a custom during her travels, but never before in Halifax. This laid the groundwork for her new book.

Emma FitzGerald's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Parents of elementary school children and their teachers can use this book as a gentle, valuable resource when approaching the topic of climate change. The whimsical art and use of colour underscores the strength of the ocean, the warmth of community, and the hopefulness in educating a child's imagination."
Sheree Fitch, award-winning author, poet, and Officer of the Order of Canada

"When the Ocean Came to Town tackles a challenging topic in a way that is fascinating and respectful of the young reader's ability to navigate a sophisticated and important conversation. Its thoughtful text is centred in the voice and character of the resourceful young protagonist. The illustrations are a whimsical delight, embodying the spirit of the Maritimes. A must-read!"
Joyce Grant, author of Can You Believe It?

"Under its topsy-turvy whimsy (brilliantly brought to life by illustrator Emma FitzGerald), When The Ocean Came To Town examines and honours our next generation's budding agency in the face of climate change. Sal Sawler's sensitively observed story reminds us that the means with which children dream of play are the same with which they listen, interpret, and imagine the world anew — and because they do, their solutions to existing problems can prove to be more than we could ever envision. Sawler's deft and detailed writing captures these possibilities, offering them up to both young readers and their grown-ups."
Jack Wong, Horn Book Award-winning author of When You Can Swim

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