The Neptune Challenge (and some thoughts on dreams)

Polly Holyoke’s exciting new novel, The Neptune Challenge, is a sequel to her award-winning Neptune Project. Indiebound says:

“Genetically engineered to survive in the ocean, Nere and her friends are recovering from their treacherous journey to Safety Harbor, an undersea refuge founded by the scientists of the Neptune Project. But plenty of enemies prowl just outside the colony’s boundaries, and when two of the children are kidnapped, Nere, her loyal dolphins, and the other Neptune kids must set out on an expedition even more perilous than their first.”

neptune challengePolly stopped by the MUF to share some of her thoughts about writing and daydreaming:

On the Importance of Daydreaming

There’s no question about it. Daydreaming is an under-valued occupation in today’s society.

Look at how we treat our best daydreamers: our children. We over-schedule them with sports and after school activities and give them electronic gadgets that captivate their brains by the hour.  Worst of all, we chastise kids for daydreaming when we should be rewarding them for staring out the window and letting their minds wander. Chances are, the dreamy student in the back of the class is the person who someday may find the cure for cancer, or a new equation that will help us travel to the stars, or invent a formula that revolutionizes battery technology. If only we could encourage that child to daydream more.

Since I was fortunate enough to make the state reading list down here in Texas last year, I’ve visited EIGHTY different campuses and seen thousands and thousands of children. My Neptune books are about genetically altered teens struggling to survive in the sea. I’m amazed that kids in third to eighth grades rarely ever question the wild premise of my stories. Instead of asking skeptical questions, students stare rapt at the blow ups of my book covers that depict kids their age talking to dolphins and swimming through the ocean. They ask, what is it like to be pulled by a dolphin? Have I ever fired a spear gun myself? What does it feel like to breathe water?

Middle graders accept the impossible and the improbable, and they will happily join a writer on a journey into impossible worlds with improbable premises, as long as writers take the time to make that world rich and exciting and full of detail.  Young people’s minds are so open to daydreaming and new ideas. It is our job as writers, educators, and parents to keep providing our kids with books that fire their imaginations.

Daydreaming is natural as finding dragons and castles in clouds, but it is also a mental ability that one can hone with practice. I’ve been daydreaming ever since I was little (which does not, by the way, improve my driving skills). But I was lucky enough to live in a family and attend schools where writing and daydreaming were encouraged.  We need to schedule our children’s days at school and at home so they can daydream. I’m afraid if our kids don’t slow down and unplug, they will forget this vital skill that can benefit our entire society.

Now, I’m going to follow my own advice. I’m going to unplug from my computer, watch some clouds, and let my mind wander. Who knows what new story ideas may occur to me today!


Thanks so much, Polly! To enter a giveaway for a signed copy of her new book, plus a dolphin bookmark/necklace, please leave a comment below.

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Tricia Springstubb
Tricia is the author of many books for middle grade, most recently "Every Single Second" (HarperCollins) and the third book in the Cody series, "Cody and the Rules of Life" (Candlewick Press). A frequent speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences, she lives in Cleveland OH. You can find out more about her and her work at
  1. I love to day dream to I often make up stories in my head between classes at school and I try to use the in stories I try to write but I haven’t got eny patience to finish. Writing it so I guess I’ll stick with day dreaming for a while and keep trying ii can’t wait for the next book from macy

  2. I have alwAys loved daydreaming and looking out the window. Really looking forward to reading your book,Polly. What a wonderful premise!

  3. Great thoughts on daydreaming! I totally agree with you, not enough of that these days! Teachers in schools usually just don’t have time in the day, and the schedule at home can impede on daydreaming as well. Thank you for reminding us to slow down a bit. My 11 year old twins can’t wait for the next Neptune Project, they’re counting the days…:)

  4. I have to say that I did have the pleasure of swimming with the dolphins in Key West and it was a dream of mine since I was a kid!

  5. Daydreaming not an occupational hazard but a necessity for some sanity at any age!! Thanks.for.the

  6. This sounds like a great premise. I bet the kids will gobble this up.

  7. My two little daydreamers (ages 9 & 10.5) can’t wait to read this! They loved the first one and have been dying to know what happens next.

  8. I miss daydreaming. I get asked by patrons what’s wrong if they see me staring off into space.

  9. Awesome! We need more MG science fiction out there. And I agree, time to unplug and daydream!

  10. What a great premise! I’ve never heard one like it, but I know it would have created all kinds of daydreams and pool adventures. It’s definitely worth a read.