Mentee NameTitle of ManuscriptMentor NameAge CategoryGenre(s)Total word count (approx.)
Emma NorrisThe BelongsongJonathan EyersMGSpeculative/fantasy52000

The last humans survive in a flooded world, unaware that humpback whales keep them in No Hunt Zones, protecting them from the ocean’s predators. But with shoals disappearing and dolphins sabotaging their fishing and hunting trips, the floating village is on the brink of starvation. When Mayu, a girl born different, hears a voice underwater and a white whale shark, Ragged Tooth, returns to the No Hunt Zone, the villagers accuse Mayu of being a Half-fish, in league with the marine animals attacking their way of life. As the lives of girl and whale shark collide, they seem like enemies from different worlds, but their paths have crossed before and they must work out who the real enemy is before the world they share is torn apart.

The Belongsong is a speculative, fantasy adventure for upper middle grade readers. It is a dual narrative with two misfit protagonists.

I grew up underwater in Gibraltar, and my best friends lived in my amateur aquarium where they frequently ate each other. When I couldn’t bear to be a child psychologist any longer, I started to write. I wanted to show the beauty of our ocean habitats for children who can never be there, and explore a message that we can all find our place, even between worlds, and the unseen lives of our sea creatures are invaluable and our fate intertwined with theirs.

Many thanks for your time.
Emma Norris

Chapter One

It’s Father’s fault I stole his kayak. 

He should have let me go foraging, or taken me with him to the Whale Graveyard. I love it out there; the sea grass meadows are so shallow you can see the enormous humpback skeletons from the surface. 

I twist the shaft of Father’s double-blade paddle in my hands, and paddle along the edge of the reef, working hard to keep the kayak tracking in a straight line. It’s too big for me. The cockpit is too wide and the seat too low, so a strong wave could swing the prow out of my control.  

The gap in our reef looms ahead. It’s where the white sands of our lagoon end and the drop-off begins. Our floating village is anchored in a shallow bowl, inside the rim of our sunken volcano, Churuuk. Outside, the wildsea’s waves smack against the black lava rocks and orange-yellow corals, and white froth and seaspray bursts up, showering me with a cooling mist. 

My heart flip flops like a fish out of water. I have never sailed out without Father or my siblings. 

The deepdark water shifts and bubbles, a million tiny crests spilling streaks of white foam as far as the horizon. I can’t go back now. I may not be able to walk, or swim, but I can kayak better than anyone my age and I have never capsized. 

I turn the kayak and send it lunging into the wildsea. My shoulders roll and my arms cycle as I lean into my stroke, the breeze ruffling my hair. The hull bounces through the swell, the splashback spatters my face and arms, and my heart balloons. I am out.

Fast, and flying and free. 

I head west, away from the dawning sun and settle into the rhythm of my paddle strokes. Inside the lagoon, our teepees and kabins are dark silhouettes, like weird dorsal fins on the backs of our anchored rafts of kelpweed. Our people are starving. The shoals have disappeared and everyone’s out hunting or foraging or fishing. Everyone except me.

If I catch something Father will have to listen to me.

A splash in the distance catches my eye. A dark shape darts along beneath the surface. It’s big, whatever it is. I reach into the cockpit, shifting the harpoon I swiped from Father’s kabin up onto my knees. I can’t believe my luck. I paddle towards the gliding figure, and maybe it hears the splash of my rowing because it twists around, looking at me from beneath the surface. 

It’s a seal. 

Flipping spinefish! No animal ever comes near our lagoon. I have only ever seen them in the distance, or as lifeless carcasses, ready to be skinned and chopped. 

The spotted grey seal curls around and swoops away through the blue, whirling and gliding. I don’t know if I can spear it, but a full-grown seal would feed half the village and I am sick of limpets and mussels.