When three US teens from radically different backgrounds meet on a scientific expedition to the Costa Rican jungle to study the threatened ocelot, they must forge an immediate bond in order to survive in the wild and block an illegal overseas shipment of ocelots and other rare animals. The Ocelot Secret , an MG adventure novel, features Nikki Wing, Taylor Strange, and Joel Parley, zoological interns from Hawaii, Aspen, and Trinidad and Tobago. They navigate the dense rain forest; discover, and eventually outwit, a band of poachers; zipwire through the jungle treetops to escape them; and enlist the aid of local youths in a daring midnight raid to free an ocean freighter full of captured animals, putting an end to the poaching. Nikki Wing, 14, of Hawaiian ancestry, is an after-school intern at the San Diego Zoo-"the best," as she herself puts it. Her ambitions are to help save one species a year for the rest of her life and to become a world-famous zoologist. Her major shortcoming is an on-again, off-again arrogance that can blind her to the needs of others. Joel James Jerome Parley, III, 14, originally of Trinidad and Tobago, is a volunteer at New York City's Wildlife Conservation Society (formerly the Bronx Zoo). A varsity wrestler and self-taught amateur magician, his idea of a good time is "meditating" with the WCS polar bears. Joel is looking forward to making face-to-face empathic "connections" with wild animals in Costa Rica. Taylor Strange, 13, of British descent, comes from Aspen, Colorado, where she is such a figure on the party scene that her stepfather has sent her on the trip to get her out of town. While she has a natural mechanical aptitude and a great sense of humor, she can also be self-involved and oppositional. Her goal for the trip, if she could only articulate it, is to make one real friend. As well as providing a fast-paced story with compelling characters, the book poses challenging questions about wildlife conservation; conveys a sense of the beauty and mystery of a variety of wild environments; and describes the individual and collective growth of two interesting girls and a boy.
A writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for children and adults, Eugene Pool has published three other books, The Captain of Battery Park, The Art of Fairy Tales, and The 100-Year Secret, as well as poems and articles in newspapers, journals, and magazines, including The Boston Globe, The Colby College Library Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, Fire Exit, Hanging Loose, Northern Journeys, and Aurorean, as well as writing for academic clients such as MIT and The University of Massachusetts. He and his wife, the photographer Parrish Dobson, and their family enjoy a house on North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay.