Project Description

Teacher’s Guide

The Secret of Old Zeb

by Carmen Agra Deedy
illustrated by Michael P. White

Some dreams are too big to be kept in bottles.

Walter Higgins is a scrappy child with a great imagination, but he feels lost and not quite sure of himself when he is shipped off to Boston to visit his unknown Great Aunt Hortensia (“the Warden”). Walter is sure he is in for the worst summer ever. But then he befriends a mysterious neighbor, Old Zeb—a lonely, grizzled sailor who builds ships in bottles, and Old Zeb lets Walter in on the Great Secret Project. All summer Walter works faithfully on the Great Secret Project with Zeb and little by little, Old Zeb and Great Aunt Hortensia push him to realize his own dreams and discover the magic that can be released when one reaches for the stars.

New York Times best-selling author Carmen Agra Deedy delivers a magical and fun-filled story about the power of reaching for impossible dreams and everything that is accomplished along the way.

Format: Paperback
Price: $8.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-280-4
Publication Date: 9/1/2002
Page Count: 36
Size: 9-5/8″ x 12-1/4″
Age Range: 6 – 10
Language: English
AR Level: 3.2
GRL: N, Gr 3
Lexile: AD520L
Themes: Adventure, Dreams, Fear
BISAC 1: JUV013030 JUVENILE FICTION / Family / Multigenerational
BISAC 2: JUV014000 JUVENILE FICTION / Girls & Women
BISAC 3: JUV006000 JUVENILE FICTION / Business, Careers, Occupations


“The ‘follow your dream’ moral is prevalent throughout the text and reinforced by the dreamlike quality of the illustrations. Behind the talk of adventuring is a reassurance that even though adults have their own dreams and adventures, they still love and return to their children.” ―School Library Journal

“Cuban storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy has crafted a dashing tale packed with skullduggery, schooners and galleons. Wise guys will especially like young Walter’s witty narration and his sly (but never snide) asides.” ―Miami Herald


Southern Book Competition Award of Merit ―Southeastern Library Association, 1997-1998

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Meet the Author

Carmen Agra Deedy, a New York Times bestselling author, has been writing and traveling around the world telling stories for more than twenty years. Her books have received numerous awards and honors. Carmen has performed in many prestigious venues, but children are her favorite audience. Born in Havana, Cuba, she came to the United States as a refugee and like most immigrants sees the world from multiple perspectives. She lives in Georgia. You can visit her website here.

Meet the Illustrator

Michael P. White is an award-winning fine artist and the illustrator of several children’s books. He lives in Georgia. You can visit his website here.