“I belong to the sea now, for seven years. That is how it works” – Keltie, the Girl from the Sea, p. 227.
|Molly Knox Ostertag
|Environmental Issues and Themes
|Habitat Destruction, Tourism, Pollution, Ocean Conservation, Hybridity
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency
|Level 3: Moderate, Plot-Driven Environmental Agency
|Wilneff Island, Nova Scotia
Inspired by Molly Knox Ostertag’s childhood summer vacations on Wilneff Island in Nova Scotia, The Girl from the Sea focuses on a queer summer romance. At the beginning of the comic, 15-year old protagonist Morgan Kwon knows that she is gay, but she has not come out to her family and friends. Instead, she plans to hide her true self until she leaves the island for college. However, her plans are disrupted when she accidentally falls into the sea in the comic’s opening scene. Keltie, a selkie—a mythical creature that can change between seal and human forms by shedding or donning its skin—rescues her, and the two share a romantic kiss. The next morning, to Morgan’s dismay, Keltie shows up at her house, declaring that Morgan is her true love.
The majority of The Girl from the Sea revolves around Morgan’s struggles with her identity as she initially tries to keep her budding romance with Keltie a secret. However, the comic does include an important environmental subplot. The family of Serena, one of Morgan’s friends, has purchased a large boat that they intend to use to give tours in the harbor. Keltie believes that the boat will negatively impact the local seal population, telling Morgan, “Well, the seals and I have learned that La Reine de la Mer has charted a course past the rookery. With all its noise, and stench, and the poison that seeps from its belly and into our seas. It will pass us, again and again, until the fish flee and the seals must leave the place we’ve called home for so many generations” (Ostertag 138). Determined to stop this destruction, Keltie and Morgan attend Serena’s birthday party aboard the boat. Initially, Keltie attempts to wreck the boat, but Morgan stops her and discusses the problem with Serena. After Serena addresses the boat’s impact on the seals with her parents, the family changes the boat route so that it no longer passes the rookery. However, the boat is still running tours at the conclusion of the comic, presumably having at least some negative impact on the environment. The characters also don’t engage in any significant environmental activism, beyond the single conversation with Serena and Keltie’s aborted boat wreck. The comic concludes with Keltie returning to the sea for another seven years after she puts on her seal skin again to save Serena from drowning during the birthday party. Now out to her friends and family, Morgan resolves to move on with her life until she can meet Keltie again.
Ostertag, Molly Knox. “Finding Myself During My Summers in Nova Scotia.” On Our Minds, Scholastic, 24 May 2021, https://oomscholasticblog.com/post/finding-myself-during-my-summers-nova-scotia.