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Hello from Renn Lake

Hello from Renn Lake
Coming May 26th

Annalise Oliver and Renn Lake share a deep, mystical, almost unexplainable bond. It's been that way since she was three years old and first heard the lake say hello. And Renn has always been a source of comfort and calm for Annalise, especially when she's upset or sad.

Annalise's happiest times are working alongside her adoptive parents, whose family has owned and run cabins along Renn Lake, Wisconsin for generations. But this summer, when a small patch of algae quickly becomes a harmful bloom, the lake is closed and the town suffers. And even worse, Annalise can no longer hear Renn.

While the authorities debate and discuss and disagree about what to do, Annalise gets frustrated, and then angry. Her sister Jess is focused only on her desire to become an actor, and her parents are dealing with numerous cancelled reservations. Finally, Annalise decides she can't wait any longer—Renn is dying. After she and her friends—confident babysitter Maya and science nerd Zach—learn about an innovative treatment for harmful algal blooms, they take a risk to save their beloved lake. But this means Annalise must confront her deepest fears and most troubling questions. There are secrets about the night she was left, and Renn Lake was the only witness.


A tear escapes down my cheek, drips off my chin, and blends into the wet sidewalk. I've thought about it before, many times, but without Mrs. Alden in the window, it's like the view is clearer. My eyes are pulled into the store, to the back door, wide open to the garden. I picture a shadow carrying newborn me and then letting go. Putting me down. The shadow takes one step back. Then another. Then disappears.

Jess gently takes my hand. "C'mon, Annalise."

I shake off her hand and run across the street. I have to get to Renn.

At the edge, the water curls over my toes and I sort of melt down, my legs trembling, my whole body unsteady.

Shhh. You're okay.

My quick puffs of breath fade into the glassy blue surface.

It's just wood, brick, glass. It can't hurt you.

The water is warm, more like end-of-summer water. A few specks of green, the color of Jess's nail polish, catch in the sun.

Lap, lap, lap. A soothing rhythm circles around my legs, as if the lake is holding me. My breath starts to slow. The trembling fades.

You're safe. You're always safe here.

I don't actually hear Renn's words. I sense them. Feel them.

I have since I was three.


A story of community, the power of youth activism, and fighting for the things you love, Hello from Renn Lake is also about the strong, indelible connection between humans and nature. Told in two perspectives—Annalise's and Renn Lake's—this heartfelt, sensitive story makes us realize that nature has a voice, and we need to listen to it.

Read an interview with Michele on The Mixed-Up Files Blog

Indiebound Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million

Penguin Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, hardcover, May 26, 2020


"The story is told in both Annalise's and Renn's voices, in alternating chapters, until midway through, when Renn's ill health leads to silence. Eventually Renn's cousin Tru, the river that feeds the lake, takes up where Renn leaves off; the inclusion of both bodies of water as narrators adds fuller dimension to the story and emphasizes the importance of the environment to our lives. An earnest and disarming tale of human and environmental caring."
   —Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions

  1. How do Annalise's and Renn's points of view complement each other through the story? How are they different?

  2. Contrast and compare Annalise's and Jess's points of view. How do they interpret events according to their own perspectives?

    1, 2 Common Core—Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.

  3. Could you narrate a story in the voice of something in nature? How would you make it believable? How would it be different or similar to a human narrator?

    Common Core—Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

  4. Describe how the relationship between the lake and the river changes after the harmful algal bloom occurs.

  5. Which events affect and change Annalise's and Jess's relationship?

    4, 5 Common Core—Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

  6. Find these words in the book: cyanobacteria, phosphorus, harmful algal bloom, stormwater runoff, and allelopathy. Look up their definitions.

    Common Core—Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.

  7. What do you think Jess learns through the story? How does she act at the beginning as compared to the end?

  8. Describe the relationship between Annalise and Zach. Is Zach an important character? Why or why not?

  9. Turn to an important scene in the book and quote a sentence or two. What does it mean, and what does it make you think about?

    Common Core—Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

  10. What is Mr. Alden's role in the story?

  11. Who, or what, is the antagonist?

  12. Was the ending satisfying to you? If you were writing a sequel, what would happen next?

For more information, check these sites:

National Geographic

American Rivers
National Geographic

Stormwater Runoff
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
National Geographic

Algal Blooms
National Ocean Service (NOAA)
Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Floating Plant Islands

Youth Activism on the Climate Crisis
This is Zero Hour
Fridays for Future
Youth Climate Strike
I Matter Youth Movement

algal bloom
A harmful algal bloom.

Halgal bloomello from Renn Lake
A close-up look at lake water with a harmful algal bloom.

algal bloom
A floating plant island, helping to clean up polluted water.