By Heather Lester

I know what you’re thinking: giant squid can’t possibly have anything to do with romance novels – and until I read Shirley Jump’s Her Frog Prince, I would have had to agree with you.

Her Frog Prince is the story of bored socialite Parris Hammond and marine biologist Brad Smith. Parris has only one goal: to get through the charity auction her father has put her in charge of, when anything that can go wrong, does. When she falls overboard during a cruise, scruffy marine biologist Brad Smith is forced to abandon his research and play reluctant hero. Naturally the two are immediately at odds with each other, he believing her to be shallow and the type bent on changing him, much like his former fiancée; she believing him to be a poor, rude, down-on-his-luck fisherman. There are some truly funny scenes in the book but, while I enjoyed the story, I have to admit that what I found most fascinating was the originality of the plot — Brad’s quest for the fabled giant squid.

Sure, I’d heard about these creatures over the years, but not being a science geek, I had never actually read anything on them, or had mostly tuned out any mention of them in the news. The thought of giant squishy things with long tentacles gives me more chills than it does thrills, but that’s just me. I spent years in the company of an Italian friend’s family, pointedly steering clear of the calamari during their annual clan gathering. I admit it — I’m not an adventurous person by nature, especially where food is concerned, and the thought of eating anything with tentacles makes me positively squeamish. So, you can understand why I wouldn’t willingly go in search of information on the giant species.

Which is why I was surprised at how fascinated I was by this unique plot in Shirley Jump’s book. Maybe it’s not the idea of a 30 to 50-foot-long squid that interested me so much as the idea of what else might be lurking beneath the depths of the ocean. For all that we’ve uncovered in decades of archeological digs and deep-sea adventures, there’s actually very little we know about this vast planet of ours — or the galaxy beyond.

But why, you are probably wondering, am I just now getting around to talking about this book? What could possibly be the point?

The point would be the picture staring at me from this week’s newspaper, stuck way back on page nine with a large caption that read, “Photos capture live giant squid.” And there, fully visible above the headline, was a grainy black and white image of a 26-foot-long Architeuthis, photographed some 3,000 feet under the sea, off the coast of Japan.

Although the creature was filmed last September, ending a three-year effort by the Japanese team who finally succeeded where others have failed, the results were not announced until they were published in Wednesday’s issue of the British journal, the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

The parallels between fact and fiction are amazing. Shirley Jump’s book was published in December 2004, nearly a year before these findings were published but mere months after the sighting. Marine biologists have been in search of the giant squid for some time now. According to Japanese team member Tsunemi Kubodera, their discovery was “the result of 10 years of sleuthing” and three years active looking. And, much like Jump’s Brad Smith, they followed sperm whales — which hunt the squid for food — in hopes of finding them. For the Japanese trio, their quest may have taken three years, but for them (and science in general), the end result was worth it.

If there is a lesson here that can be related to writing, I guess it would that, if you keep at it long enough, if you plumb all the depths of the ocean and never give up, you’ll eventually find your giant squid. Just look for the sperm whale — whatever that may be for you — to guide you on your quest.

Hyperlinks to add:

Giant Squid

Shirley Jump B&N Link

Shirley Jump Website