The Walking Fish

Middle Grade Science Adventure novel 
Tumblehome Learning Publishing

"This science mystery book focuses on a seventh grade protagonist on a hunt for an unusual fish. This book’s unique combination of humor and mystery will have your students begging for more!" ~ Laney Lee Science.

When seventh-grader Alexis catches an unusual fish that looks like a living fossil, she sets off a frenzied scientific hunt for more of its kind. Alexis and her friend Darshan join the hunt, snorkeling, sounding the depths of Glacial Lake, even observing from a helicopter and exploring a cave. All the while, they fight to keep the selfish Dr. Mertz from claiming the discovery all for himself. When Alexis follows one final hunch, she risks her life and almost loses her friend. This is a scientific adventure not to be missed. With great settings and vivid characters, lively and at times hilarious, this book presents the adventure of science in a way that’s sure to appeal to girls and boys in grades 4-7.

***Children's Book Council***
***National Science Teacher's Association*** 

LETTER FROM A PARENT:   Dear Rachelle, My son, the one who is not a reader, has been carrying "The Walking Fish" all around the house. He's been reading it in bed before he goes to sleep. He even excused himself from dinner to get it and sat back down at the table and read while the rest of us finished eating!!! I have never seen him so engrossed in any book before!! Thank you!  ~Noelle Riesenman (parent of Matt, a Maple Road School student)

Listed on numerous "Best STEM books" lists, including:

  • like wasting my time running down rabbit holes but I've come up with some really fascinating things

There are THREE curriculum guides for this book created by different sources: 

Here is a guide developed by the Tumblehome Learning, the publisher of The Walking Fish: CLICK for Common Core CLASSROOM GUIDE

Click HERE for a 36 page middle school classroom guide by NITTY GRITTY SCIENCE. It covers Reading, Vocabulary, and Science. (developed by a science teaching organization,, not affiliated with the publisher or author)

For a guide designed by PROJECT LEARNING TREE, a national environmental education organization, Please click HERE.  (


Click below to print blank Venn Diagram
Click to print blank Venn Diagram!

Click for printable "CREATE A FISHish" page!

Click for printable page

Click here for this Home News article about working with my awesome uncle/co-author, and winning the National Science Teachers Association Award! 
Praise for The Walking Fish 
click links for full reviews

"Burk accurately portrays science and responsible caving without watering it down or taking away the exciting read for young minds!" 
~ Dianne Joop, Education Director, National Cave and Karst Research Institute

"I was captivated by the charm of the characters and the uncomplicated elegance of the writing. The best part is that the book is about science! The story combines biology and geology, puns and quirky characters in academic and adventure settings, with excitement such as helicopter rides and spelunking."
~Patricia Donahue, Middle School  Science Teacher 

 "A good introduction to the basics of geology, spelunking, and research ethics." 
~ Ron Tambor, Aerospace Engineer

"It surpassed my expectations. I enjoyed the character, the plot, the setting. It was a fantastic mix of creative and realistic. The protagonist Alexis has so much determination and perseverance, a quality that is incredibly inspirational to younger children." 

"The science in this book is accurate, well presented, and not overwhelming....Rachelle Burk does a good job of incorporating interesting characters that challenge Alexis as a friend, daughter and scientist while also introducing her to the first twinges of romance. But the best character, by far, is Alexis herself who is fearless and relentless in her pursuit of the truth...It will especially appeal to those with an interest in science  but there is enough action and character development to keep everyone turning the page. Recommended."

"I love a good mystery – and when it comes to the ecological and the geological merging together into harmonic symphony of symbiosis, truly what could be more wicked brilliant!?...You get wrapped up in the goings-on long before you realize you’re absorbing historical data...[Alexis has] a nice grounding of curiosity tipped with determination and a spirit of ingenuity…I loved the diversity knitted inside the story… I even appreciated seeing how trauma is dealt with and re-directed through positive therapy... It is a beautiful layering of narrative that teaches children without having them realize they’ve encountered a life lesson…it encourages their empathy to increase and their world to expand…I am truly hoping the hinting of a sequel is going to take shape inside the authors’ minds because this book would make an excellent ‘series’ of stories for Middle Graders! A very heart-warming story about a girl, an unusual fish, and the unity of bridging the gap between man and nature."
~Jorie Loves A Story Book Reviews 

"The author does a great job of weaving together the scientific and the literary and creating an entertaining story for young readers. The determination and perseverance of the main character, Alexis, is noteworthy and an inspiration to readers. The narration is simple, charming and detailed, making the scenes very visual and clear...The story is developed well and the characters are well portrayed so that they leave a lasting impression in the minds of readers. I enjoyed the pace and movement of this engaging story. It is fluid and captures one's attention. It can be used for read aloud sessions in classrooms and school libraries as it takes the imagination of readers to another level."

In recent years, I have read many books in the juvenile fiction genre that are wildly popular. The Walking Fish is far superior to any of them. It is certainly better written while retaining its appeal to adolescent readers and is an inspiration for young women interested in science with its portrayal of a strong female lead character.
The Walking Fish serves as an excellent introduction for younger readers into the realm of STEM related subjects. When notified of its impending release, I immediately accepted the opportunity to review a copy from the publisher.
It is an excellent choice to be used as supplemental curriculum in a science class, ELA class or an interdisciplinary class when combined with the free high quality teaching guide (pdf) found on the publisher’s website. Extension activities are provided to differentiate instruction and links are included to additional resources. As an ELA supplement, it addresses both key concepts and skills. For science classes, it covers key concepts in Life Science and Earth Systems.
Beyond academics, The Walking Fish is equally appealing as a choice for ‘reading for pleasure’. The plot and character development are superb. The authors obviously did their research as evidenced by their accurate portrayal of scientific facts woven into the story. I look forward to more adventures for Alexis and her friend, Darshan, in the coming years.
~ Review By Lisa Conrad

The Walking Fish begins, appropriately, with a ‘hook’:
“When you get right down to it, I only discovered the Walking Fish because Grandpa got sloppy with a chainsaw.  Had he been more careful cutting down the maple tree, he would not have lost most of the fingers of his right hand. ‘Four of my favorite fingers,’ he said. Without them, fishing was a bit of a struggle.”
And  the short opening section that follows sets an idyllic scene between an obviously bright young girl and her “punning” grandfather.”
They are in “his little fishing boat,” floating desultorily on a lake on a “sunny fall day,” and discussing in a comfortable familiar way whether our narrator will be willing to serve as hook-baiter for her grandfather whose hook-baiting hand can no longer handle the wiggling worms.
This is a book suited for children. The introductory scene-setting happens in fewer than two pages, and in that short space, those eight-year-olds are already invested in characters, scene, and story.  The truth is that this seventy-year-old reviewer was reading with more than a little curiosity by this point.  I like this sharp, nearly-adolescent girl, trading puns with her endearing grandparent; I like her quite a lot.  By the end of Chapter Two, she has been assured by her father, a high school science teacher, backed up by an environmental scientist and a neighbor at Glacial Lake, where they spend their summers, that although the Fish and Wildlife people have attempted to stock the lake, fish just don’t seem to survive,” something about the minerals in the water.”  The absence of fish, of course, means that the grandfather we met a few pages back isn’t much interested in joining the family for the summer.
The chapter’s last scene finds our intrepid explorer flat on her belly beside the lake, having abandoned for the moment her search for frogs, gazing into the settling water at
“a creature like nothing I had ever seen.  A fish! And it appeared to be standing on little legs and waving up at me.”
And there we have it: an appealing and believable young girl, her parents, a lake house, a grandfather who fishes, a father who teaches science, a “lake neighbor” who is an environmental scientist at a local college, a lake where the fish are dying, and a mystery.
Authors Rachelle Burk & Kopek Burk, MD, have created an irresistible, tightly crafted book that fulfills every purpose for which Tumblehome Learning exists–and they have done it by the bottom of page 8!
                   ~Review by author and blogger Dean Robertson (read full blog about the publisher)
About the Authors
Rachelle Burk is a children’s author, social worker, clown, and storyteller. She writes fiction and nonfiction for children, including books, magazine pieces, and poetry. Rachelle scuba dives, explores caves, and volunteers on a rescue squad. 

Kopel Burk is a retired physician who writes, sculpts, and remains active on the bioethics committee at his hospital. He conceived the idea for Walking Fish over 40 years ago, when he told early versions of the story to his young children, nieces and nephews. His co-author is one of those nieces. At 86, this is his first book.

Rachelle searches for new species with cavers from University of West Virginia (Sept 2014)
Found it! A clay Walking Fish!