The Fog Diver


The Fog Diver
by Joel Ross

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Author Information:
Joel Ross, author:

The Fog Diver:

Make fog:

Design an airship:

How high can an airship fly?:

Scavengers – create something out of recycled materials:

Brain – interactive sites:

Robots – design a robot:

History of Airships:

Explore nanotechnology:

Explore the causes & possible solutions for pollution:

Earth’s environments:

What would it be like to live on a mountain? Alpine biome:

Develop a plan to protect animals in your area:

Start a garden; learn about what foods grow well in your area:

Learn about the atmosphere & how it affects airships and flying:

Use helium and other gases to demonstrate different atmospheric levels:

Discussion Questions:

Chess tells us his position is that of “tetherboy;” diving into the Fog scavenging for wreckage and junk to sell for food, clothes and rent. What do you think being the tetherboy means? Is this a job you would like?  

Bea talks with the engines and various components on the ship. She “listens” to them. What do you think of this? Is it a talent, or a gift, or is she just eccentric?

Who is Lord Kodoc? What does he want with Chess?  If you were in Chess’s shoes, what would you do?  Mrs. E. says that if Kodoc catches Chess, he’ll work him to death. Why did Mrs. E. withhold this information from Chess? How do you think you’d feel if you were in Chess’s place?

Chess let a goose go, one that would have made a good dinner. That night, they ended up eating greens and seagull jerky. What do you think seagull jerky is like? What do you imagine you’d eat in a similar situation?

In the novel, we see our present day cultural norms distorted by Swedish, Hazel, and the other crew members.  We hear of Elvis Parsley and weird animals, like spelling bees and hello kitties. What do you think of “Skywalker Trek” and the war between the Klingons and the Jedi? Do you think it’s possible for cultural aspects to change through time? What are some things about history that you think that we, as humans in our present day, have gotten wrong?

The crew lives on the rooftop. What’s the rooftop? How do you think it would be living in such a confined space? Do you think you would like living on top of a mountain?

We learn that to clean up earth’s smog, scientists created nanites. Not only did these little machines heal the earth and clean the water and sky, but they decided to attack new sources of pollution, and went after humans because humans made the smog.  The nanites turned into the Fog. Do you think the nanites are good guardians of the newly cleaned earth? Do you think it’s right that the nanites protect plants and animals, but target humans? What do you think it would be like living in this world?

When Mrs. E. first found Chess, she told him not to be frightened, and left him some food. She did this a few times. Why do you think she did this? Do you think you would’ve been mistrustful of her intentions as Chess was?

Mrs. E. welcomed Chess and raised him. She became a mother, a boss, and a teacher. She taught each of the children she had found to read. Why do you think Mrs. E did all these things for these children? These weren’t Mrs. E’s children, yet she loved them. What role did love play in the decision the children make to search for a cure to help Mrs. E.? What would you do in this situation?

Hazel and Chess go to a Subassembly seeking a cure for Mrs. E., but they’re told they have to take her to Port Oro for a cure. Would you be willing to make such a daring trip for a friend in need?

Mrs. E. confesses that she once worked with Kodoc, and that she knew Tiara, Chess’s mother. All that time spent in the Fog is what made her sick. How do you think Chess feels about that, relieved, guilty, etc.? 

Mrs. E. says the kids need to get to Port Oro, but not for her. Her main reason is keeping Chess safe from Kodoc. Though she says there are always new rumors in the junkyard, she believes that Kodoc will find Chess if they don’t go to Port Oro. Do you think this attitude contributes to Chess blaming himself for Mrs. E’s illness?

There are a lot of generalizations used in this story. Slumdivers, bottom feeders, and urchins are some of the labels used. What use do these descriptors serve in the story? How do you feel about name calling and labelling others? Have you been called names?

Chess has a white eye affected by the Fog he was born in. He feels it makes him a freak because it makes him different. Can you relate to Chess being different? What are some ways you’re different from others?

If you were Mrs. E., would you have risked yourself for Chess? Why? Why not?

Cog Turning wants to help Mrs E. and to keep Chess from Kodoc. He tells us that Chess is the only one who can find the compass. What is a compass? Do you think the compass from the story is appropriately named?

Why do you think they fly an airship as opposed to an airplane?  What do you think happened to all the technology?

The Fog Diver can be considered post-apocalyptic or dystopian fiction. How do you imagine the post-apocalyptic world? What role do you imagine for technology?

Are we too focused on our technology? What are some things we need technology for? What are some things we don’t need technology for?

As a society, have we lost any skills because of our technology use? Do you think it’s important to learn to be self-sufficient, like Chess and his crew? Why?

Book Talk Teasers:

Design a blimp to use as a visual aid. After introducing the book or reading a section, have the students build and fly their own.

Read pages 1 and 2.

Read pages 45 through “Welcome home.” on page 48.

Read Alikes:

Science Fiction:
Black, Peter Jay. Urban outlaws. Deep beneath London, five extraordinary youths, orphans who bonded over their shared sense of justice, have formed the Urban Outlaws and dedicated themselves to outsmarting criminals and performing Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K.s), but they are in serious trouble when they face a genius super-computer, Proteus. (NoveList)

Clayton, Emma.The roar. In an overpopulated world where all signs of nature have been obliterated and a wall has been erected to keep out plague-ridden animals, twelve-year-old Mika refuses to believe that his twin sister was killed after being abducted, and continues to search for her in spite of the dangers he faces in doing so. (NoveList)

Eddleman, Peggy. Sky jumpers. “Twelve-year-old Hope lives in a post World War III town called White Rock where everyone must participate in Inventions Day, though Hope’s inventions always fail. Her unique skill set comes in hand when a group of bandits invades the town”–. (NoveList)

Forester, Victoria (Victoria Lakeman). The girl who could fly. When homeschooled farm girl Piper McCloud reveals her ability to fly, she is quickly taken to a secret government facility to be trained with other exceptional children, but she soon realizes that something is very wrong and begins working with brilliant and wealthy Conrad to escape. (NoveList)

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Sent. Jonah, Katherine, Chip, and Alex suddenly find themselves in 1483 at the Tower of London, where they discover that Chip and Alex are Prince Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, imprisoned by their uncle, King Richard III, but trying to repair history without knowing what is supposed to happen proves challenging. Author’s note includes historical facts about the princes and king. (NoveList)

Kade, J. V. Bot wars. In a futuristic world where humans and robots are at war, a boy goes on a search to find his missing military father. (NoveList)

Landon, Kristen. The limit. When his family exceeds its legal debt limit, thirteen-year-old Matt is sent to the Federal Debt Rehabilitation Agency workhouse, where he discovers illicit activities are being carried out using the children who have been placed there. (NoveList)

Perry, Michael.  The scavengers. With a neighbor’s help, twelve-year-old Ford Falcon learns to survive in the harsh world outside the Bubble Cities by scavenging for items to use or trade–skills she needs when her parents unexpectedly go missing. (NoveList)

Reisman, Michael. Simon Bloom, the gravity keeper. Nerdy sixth-grader Simon Bloom finds a book that enables him to control the laws of physics, but when two thugs come after him, he needs the formulas in the book to save himself. (NoveList)

Webb, Philip. Six days. Cass and her brother Wilbur scavenge in the ruins of a future London seeking an artifact for their Russian masters, but the search takes on a new urgency after the arrival of Erin and Peyto, strangers from afar who claim to hold the key to locating the mysterious object. (NoveList)

Science Fiction, Steampunk:
Hamilton, K. R. The ire of iron claw. “The daring and loyal dachshund Noodles, the boy inventor Wally Kennewickett, and his scientific genius family and staff of automatons join forces with Nikola Tesla to defeat sky pirates, cross Europe in a giant mechanical spider, and defy the evil Mesmers”–.(NoveList)

First person narrative:
Holm, Jennifer L. The fourteenth goldfish. Ellie’s scientist grandfather has discovered a way to reverse aging, and consequently has turned into a teenager–which makes for complicated relationships when he moves in with Ellie and her mother, his daughter. (NoveList)

Peterfreund, Diana. Omega City. Determined to prove her conspiracy theorist father’s beliefs about lost Cold War technology, Gillian, her skeptical brother, and their friends journey to the ruins of a vast doomsday bunker before they are confronted by dangerous adversaries. (NoveList)

Stead, Rebecca. When you reach me. As her mother prepares to be a contestant on the 1980s television game show, “The $20,000 Pyramid,” a twelve-year-old New York City girl tries to make sense of a series of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space. (NoveList)

Humorous science fiction:
O’Hara, Mo. My big fat zombie goldfish: the sea-quel. Tom’s big brother is an Evil Scientist who wants to experiment on Tom’s new goldfish, Frankie. Can Tom save his fish from being dunked in radioactive gunge? Er, no. In an act of desperation Tom zaps Frankie with a battery, bringing him back to life! But there’s something weird about the new Frankie – he’s now a zombie goldfish with hypnotic powers, and he wants revenge…Tom has a difficult choice to make – save his evil brother, or save his fishy friend? (NoveList)

Science Fiction, Books to Movies:
Hughes, Ted. The iron giant. The fearsome iron giant becomes a hero when he challenges a huge space monster. (NoveList)

Dystopian fiction:
Courage, Nick. The loudness. Forced from the colorful streets and underground rock clubs of the Other Side to an overcrowded capital city on the verge of collapse, Henry realizes that not everyone is who they seem to be–himself included. (NoveList)

Fairy Tale and Folklore-Inspired:
Magoon, Kekla. Shadows of Sherwood: a Robyn Hoodlum adventure. When Nott City is taken over by a harsh governor, Ignomus Crown, and her parents disappear, twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley flees for her life and joins a group of children trying to take back what is rightfully theirs in this futuristic retelling of Robin Hood. (NoveList)


Book Reviews:

The Fog Diver.
By Joel Ross.
2015. 336p. Harper, $16.99 (9780062352934). Gr. 4–7.
First published May 1, 2015 (Booklist).

Centuries ago, the Fog, a dangerous, thick white cloud, descended onto earth, bringing with it a plague that killed or sickened most of its inhabitants. Those left have either taken to the skies on makeshift rafts with clockwork engines, or settled on the tops of mountains in expensive communities. It’s on a raft that 13-year-old slum kid Chess and his motley crew live, trying to survive on what they can salvage from below the Fog and hiding from the villainous Lord Kodoc. The crew is determined to make it to the glittering city of Port Oro, where they know they’ll find a cure for their benefactor’s fogsickness, but on the way, they will need to dodge peril with only one another to count on. Ross’ clever world building, where Star Wars and Star Trek have mashed up to become the fairy tales of a future steampunk generation, is unique and compelling, and he capably combines heartening emotional growth and absorbing adventure in an engaging read for middle-grade fans of sci-fi and fantasy. —Stacey Comfort


Horn Book:
Ross, Joel The Fog Diver
330 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2015. ISBN 978-0-06-235293-4

(4) 4-6 Lethal fog covers the earth, forcing humans to live in the skies. Among them are four young scavengers on an airship desperate to save their guardian from a deadly illness but without money to do it–until they find a diamond. Despite its neat futuristic setting, the plot feels charmingly nostalgic (think The Goonies). The crew’s banter is amusing if sometimes hokey. (Fall 2015 Guide)


School Library Journal:
The Fog Diver
Gr 4–6—It’s been years since the formation of the deadly Fog that drove the last people from the surface of the Earth. The only remaining humans live in towns high in the mountaintops. With few resources, it’s a hard life. For a slum kid like Chess, working on a salvage airship is the best way to keep from starving. As his ship’s tetherboy, Chess must dive into the Fog and recover relics from Earth that can be traded for food for his crew. Most tether boys don’t last a year. Those who avoid the Fog sharks eventually succumb to Fog sickness in the end. All except Chess. For Chess, the Fog never hurts. Chess’s deepest secret is that he was born in the Fog, and it has marked him. His whole life, Chess has kept his head down and avoided notice. Now things are changing. Mrs. E., Chess’s guardian, is dying of Fog sickness, and Chess and his friends must race against the clock to get her to the cure. Unfortunately, the greedy Lord Kodoc has found out about Chess’s affinity for Fog and has made other plans. With plenty of action, and characters who are as precocious as they are prodigious at their airship duties, this is a fun beginning to a unique new series. An abundance of pop culture references gone hilariously wrong add appeal for reluctant readers. Oh, and there are air pirates! VERDICT A solid choice for fans of adventure series or speculative fiction.—Liz Overberg, Darlington School, Rome, GA


The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Ross, Joel N. The Fog Diver. HarperCollins, 2015. hb 9780062352934

Centuries ago, nanites were created to clean up the pollution humans had created. The nanites didn’t self-destruct as they should have, however, and instead turned themselves into a permanent, malevolent fog and began treating people as a form of pollution. Animals and plants continue to thrive, but since then, the few remaining humans who weren’t driven mad or killed in the Fog eke out a living above it in the sky (on all manner of air vehicles) and on the highest mountains. Chess, however, has a Fog-eye, the rare ability to enter the Fog to hunt and scavenge without it [End Page 562] destroying his brain; this ability makes him vital to his salvage raft’s crew, but it is also a skill much sought after by the terrifying Lord Kodoc, who experiments on children to try to find a child with such a gift. The book’s pace is impeccable, and Chess’ narration is lively and sympathetic as he expresses his anxiety at being found by Kodoc, describes his love and worry for his crew, who have become his family, and breathlessly relates fight and chase scenes. There’s both creepiness and a ramshackle charm to the setting, and while Ross occasionally overuses the gimmick of having the characters spout some mixed-up version of our contemporary pop culture, the device adds levity. The conclusion begs for a sequel, even as many elements are satisfyingly resolved by the end—readers will undoubtedly think there is still more to say about Chess, his fantastic crew, and the Fog itself. Review Code: R — Recommended. Grades 5-8. April Spisak (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, July/August 2015 (Vol. 68, No. 11))