Mock Newbery Nominee: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Week five of our Mock Newbery summaries and reviews is the last of 2017, but I'll be back in 2018 with another five before the final votes are tallied. I present Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk for your consideration. I hope I can convince you to give it a read, as this historical adventure story about belonging and family is one of my favorites of the year.

Summary: "Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift in a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar. Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger." -From the publisher.

There are a many stories about orphans who are searching for who they are. There are many stories about being an outsider and finding acceptance. There are many stories about finding mysterious treasure. Beyond the Bright Sea is about all of these things but is much more than the sum of its parts. The characters are excellently fleshed-out and intriguing. Crow is very much like her namesake, smart and curious with a tendency to impulsive action. But she is also loving, and shares that love with her adoptive father, Osh and the irrepressible Miss Maggie. The bond between the three is solid, unbreakable, and generally unspoken. Osh has lived through terrible things and chooses to live apart from the world, but Crow provides a link back to the wider world. Miss Maggie's non-nonsense and independent style of living belies her true kindness and empathy for these outsiders.

The setting is almost a character itself, as the changing landscape of the islands and sea feels alive in Wolk's descriptions. The way Wolk works the history of the islands into the story is wonderful, particularly as this will be a fairly unknown bit of history to any outside of the coastal area. The mysteries central to the plot, Crow's origins and the location of a certain treasure, come to a satisfying conclusion, though some threads remain unraveled. While most of the story has a sense of quiet, there are definite moments of suspense and danger. A true gem of a story that I hope you'll check out.

If I've convinced you to vote for this one, visit our Kid's Page before January 31st to cast your votes, or stay tuned next week for another summary and review if you haven't read all the nominees.


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