Ages 9+ | Surfside Girls Volume 1 (Top Shelf)

Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point
Published by: Top Shelf
Written by: Kim Dwinell
Illustrated by: Kim Dwinell
Format: Softcover, 236 pages, Color, $19.99
ISBN: 9781603094115
Ages: 9+


“You answered the call.  This is your journey . . . .”

When I asked Kim Dwinell last month about her literary muses for Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point she said she had three: Nancy Drew, Scooby- Doo, and Flipper.  Now that’s a story trio worth reading, I thought.  And Kim Dwinell delivers! 

One of my top picks for best middle grade graphic novel of the year and best debut graphic novelist of 2018, Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point is a coming of age mystery that brings two best friends even closer together. 

When Sam discovers a mysterious and ghost-laden underwater cave near Danger Point, the two best friends’ must decide if they can truly trust each other in the face of one seriously odd mystery occurring in their gorgeous, beachside hometown.  Can Sam trust Jade with the secrets she found in the mysterious new cave?  Will Jade be able to believe her best friend, even if Sam’s pretty sure she saw some friendly ghosts who seem to think it is her destiny to accept their mysterious call-to-action? 

Due to Surfside Girls’ well received debut, Sam’s acceptance of this first mysterious call-to-action is the first journey in what Dwinell tells me is only one of more to come.

Elements of Story

Plot: Summer has started and Sam is seeing ghosts on Danger Point. Just when things can’t seem to get weirder, Sam and Jade discover that Mayor Buckley, who is acting very strangely, seems to be connected to the events on Danger Point. Will the Surfside girls be able to connect the dots and solve the mystery?

Characters: Samantha (Sam) Taylor, Jade, Bob Taylor, Mr. Jian Wu, Peety, Sam’s mom, Robert, Mrs. Edna Scott, Mayor George Buckley, Vincent Nesbalm, Andrea and Raul

Setting: Surfside, Danger Point, the Burger Dude, the beach, the ocean, underwater, the cave, Lifeguard Headquarters, Mrs. Edna Scott’s home, Sam’s home, hospital 

Themes: Friendship, Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Afterlife/ Ghosts

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the

Common Core Standards (CCS) for High School Readers

Common Core Standard(s)

Key Ideas and Details:
Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Directions for Lesson Plan

A graphic novel mystery lends itself well to teaching 21st century young adults about inference. Often a challenging topic to teach in classrooms, inference is easily linked to the skills students need to have in order to read a mystery story well. 

In a graphic novel, inferences exist in the textual and visual indication(s) that connect pieces of the story together.  The lesson idea and corresponding graphic organizer below will help students keep a running record of their inferences, and reflections on those inferences, throughout the story.

To begin, ask students what it is like to put together a puzzle.  Write students responses on the board, being sure to include ideas like: identifying connective visual clues, identifying connective textual clues, reflecting on the greater idea or end goal, trying out options until finding the right fit, and so on.

Next, ask students to read the graphic novel and put bookmarks on the pages they think may link together in order to solve the mystery; in other words, ask students to identify the clues (a synonym for inference in this lesson plan) in the story. 

After reading the entire graphic novel and knowing the ending of the mystery ask students to go back and reflect on their bookmark placements and select their top 3 choices for strongest inference (clue) moments in the story; students will need to use both words and images to reflect on their inference choices.  


Dr. Katie Monnin is the Director of Education at Pop Culture Classroom in Denver, Colorado.  She has written dozens of articles, curricula, reviews, lesson plans, and 8 books about teaching graphic novels, animation, video games, social media and other pop culture topics in the classroom.