Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Beyond the Bright Sea

From the author of the critically acclaimed Wolf Hollow comes a moving story of identity and belonging.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 on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow's only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her,...

Title:Beyond the Bright Sea
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1101994851
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:304 pages

Beyond the Bright Sea Reviews

  • Lola  Reviewer

    3.5 stars.

    I wish this read a bit more like a castaway story, because then it would have been a little more exciting, in my opinion, since ‘‘survival’’ would have been a huge theme.

    Although Crow was cast away on an island when she was a baby, a man (Osh) found her and took care of her, becoming her father. She never did have to fend for herself, even having Miss Maggie, their sandbar neighbour, help her when needed.

    But still, Crow doesn’t feel whole. She wants to know where she comes from badly

    3.5 stars.

    I wish this read a bit more like a castaway story, because then it would have been a little more exciting, in my opinion, since ‘‘survival’’ would have been a huge theme.

    Although Crow was cast away on an island when she was a baby, a man (Osh) found her and took care of her, becoming her father. She never did have to fend for herself, even having Miss Maggie, their sandbar neighbour, help her when needed.

    But still, Crow doesn’t feel whole. She wants to know where she comes from badly. So she digs around, discovering she might be from Penikese, the worst possible place she could be from.

    Though I thought so in the beginning, there is no mystery case. It’s less about finding out the truth about Crow’s past and more about her realizing the future is much more important than the past.

    So the mystery lasted while it lasted and that was that. I have to admit I found learning the truth too soon underwhelming.

    Fortunately, the characters are precious. It doesn’t take long for the reader to familiarize themselves with them. Even if we don’t exactly know much about their past, we instantly connect with their kind-heartedness, values and sense of community.

    I definitely find the message in this book important: family isn’t about the blood; it’s about the people who care for you no matter what. I think it’s normal to want to find our relatives and learn more about ourselves in the process, but it’s important not to forget who was there for us when our blood family wasn’t.

    A tiny bit uneventful and repetitive, but wonderfully-moving. I’d love to read a sequel of it with an adult Crow.

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  • Figgy

    Review to come.

    Overall a sweet story with some lovely relationships, but a little telly and not particularly strong in emotion.

  • Wendy Darling

    A baby is set adrift in the Elizabeth Islands in the 1920s. Why? The answer is revealed slowly, and Crow isn't sure what her adoptive father knows about it.

    Luminous prose, quietly endearing characters, and sobering history. I loved so much of this beautiful middle grade book, and yet I'm mixed about one major subplot, much as I was with FOX HOLLOW. I think the story is engrossing enough--and frankly, mo

    A baby is set adrift in the Elizabeth Islands in the 1920s. Why? The answer is revealed slowly, and Crow isn't sure what her adoptive father knows about it.

    Luminous prose, quietly endearing characters, and sobering history. I loved so much of this beautiful middle grade book, and yet I'm mixed about one major subplot, much as I was with FOX HOLLOW. I think the story is engrossing enough--and frankly, more powerful without it. But it says something about the beguiling nature of the author's writing that I only needed to see her name to know that I wanted to read this. Jorjeana Marie's narration is just perfect for this story, too.

    Review of come of the audio edition.

  • Betsy

    No author gets a free pass. Your last book have been a spot-on bit of brilliance, lighting up the literary landscape like a thousand Roman candles. Pfui. A writer is only as good as their latest book, as any jaded 10-year-old will tell you. And while I greatly enjoyed Lauren Wolk’s debut novel (and Newbery Honor winner)

    I also knew full well that the author originally intended that book to be a written work for adults.

    , her next novel, is written specifically wi

    No author gets a free pass. Your last book have been a spot-on bit of brilliance, lighting up the literary landscape like a thousand Roman candles. Pfui. A writer is only as good as their latest book, as any jaded 10-year-old will tell you. And while I greatly enjoyed Lauren Wolk’s debut novel (and Newbery Honor winner)

    I also knew full well that the author originally intended that book to be a written work for adults.

    , her next novel, is written specifically with a child audience in mind from the start. Would that change Wolk’s writing style at all? Could she maintain the same level of written sophistication if she knew the book was going to be read by young people, or would she veer off into the dreaded trying-too-hard territory known by too many authors all too well? Heck, would she even respect her audience or would she be writing down to them? In retrospect, I suspect that it didn’t matter much how I felt about the book walking into it. If I’d had high expectations, they would have been met. Low ones were simply exceeded.

    is a slower, statelier novel than a lot of books out there, but once it reaches its full speed there’s no holding it back. Leprosy, pirate gold, orphans, shipwrecks, lost messages, they all crowd the pages and leave you coming back for more. Wolk actually knows how to write for kids, and not just that, write beautifully. The proof is in the pudding.

    Crow says it was seeing that light on Penikese Island that started it all, but I don’t know if you’d agree. Maybe the real beginning was when Osh found her as a baby, washed up on the shore in a makeshift boat. Clearly her boat came from Penikese where the leprosy sanitarium was located. He could have turned her in to the proper authorities, but for a man escaping a past he’d never discuss, it was actually easier to raise her with the help of his neighbor Miss Maggie. Now Crow is older and she wants to know where she came from. Who her parents were. What she doesn’t know is that delving deep into the mystery will reveal a lot more than her family. There’s a man out there who thinks she has what he wants, and if Crow isn’t careful she’ll lose everything she has in pursuit of what she wants.

    I certainly wouldn’t peg the book as a straight-up mystery, but after Chapter 10 that feeling does begin to pervade the pages. And if it is a mystery then Wolk is playing fair. She gives the kids all the clues they need, and no doubt some of them will solve some of the origins of Crow’s birth on their own. Wolk fills the book with mysterious happenings that are within a child’s grasp, and that goes double for the foreshadowing. Now I like to compare foreshadowing to spice. Some authors think the more you have, the better, and they’ll laden their chapters down with it so much that by the time the big event actually arrives it’s anti-climatic. Wolk is different. It isn’t that she uses less foreshadowing, she just parcels it out better. For example, a mention in the first chapter of the boat Crow arrived in and that Osh burned in the first makes her wonder why THAT particular wood got burnt. And yes, many is the chapter that ends with a breath of things to come, but they do what they are designed to do. They pull you further in.

    In terms of character development, Wolk outdoes herself. We spend a long time with Osh, getting to know him as an outsider would, before Miss Maggie tells us a story that essentially reduces his personality down to its most perfect form. It's the story of meeting a man who, when starving, would cut only a single arm off of the starfishes he caught for starfish soup. His logic was that he would live and they would live. A WWI survivor (we’re never certain about the degree of his involvement, but there are some distinct moments of PTSD) he bears not a little similarity to another haunted war survivor in Wolk’s books. Toby, the shell-shocked man in

    was far more damaged than Osh, but maybe if he’d found a way to cut himself off from the wider world (as Osh does) and care for someone, he would have thrived. Curiously, while we get great swaths of story with Osh, we know almost nothing about the other adult in Crow’s life, Miss Maggie. Why does she live alone? What was her life like once? And in true keeping with a child’s perspective regarding the adults around her, we never get a clear sense of Maggie and Osh’s ages. Some mysteries are not meant to be solved.

    If Osh and Toby share similarities, what are we to make of Wolk’s latest villain? After reading

    I was struck by a single, piercing thought. The character of Betty in that book is, without a doubt, the most chilling psychopath I’d ever encountered in a tale for kids. And for a while there it seemed as though

    didn’t have a baddie at all. When at last you do meet him, you don’t realize him for what he is (or the threat he represents) at first. It’s only when you get to know him better that you realize he’s actually the polar opposite of Betty. While she was a cunning little girl, able to use society’s expectations to her advantage, the man in this book is dumb as a box of rocks. By the internal logic of children’s literature itself that should make him less of a threat. Dumb villains are easy to outsmart and therefore pose no real harm, right? But it’s quite the opposite here. And as it happens he does share one particular quality with our dear Betty: He’s unpredictable. And unpredictability, as anyone can tell you, can get you killed.

    Now Wolk’s the kind of writer where you feel this strange palpable sense of relief, if you’re a children’s librarian, delving into her book for the first time. Relief, that is, that she’s such an excellent writer. The kind of writer that makes you want to quote lines from her book out of context. That’s always my instinct, and why not? Here are some choice examples that I particularly enjoyed:

    • “… feeling hurt and being hurt aren’t always the same thing.” (Re: leprosy)

    • “What you do is who you are.”

    • “So that’s writ in stone. The rest in water.”

    • “… there are better bonds than blood.”

    But would a kid actually want to read it? Well, that’s sort of a trick question, isn’t it? As any children’s librarian worth their salt knows, you can get a kid to read anything if you sell it to them correctly. A co-worker pointed out to me recently that the first chapter or so is relatively slow, compared to the rest of the book. That’s a bit unfortunate. Slow passages are fine, particularly if they are of a literary bent, but you wouldn’t usually kick off your book with them right from the start. Still, once the plot gets moving you’re in for a heck of a ride. There is true villainy and true love on these pages. There’s the mystery of adults who have learned too much and the foolishness of children who only want to learn more. A kid reading this book will read it on one level, an adult on another, and history clearer still. A bright, beautiful read.

    For ages 10-14.

  • Abby Johnson

    What a treasure of a book. Gorgeous lines of prose are woven into this historical novel. It maybe is a tiny bit overwritten, as I kept pausing to notice these beautiful turns of phrase. The Northeast island setting is so fully realized that it's almost another character in the book. With a plucky heroine, a strong sense of place, interesting characters, and a little bit of a mystery, there's something for many readers here.

    Hand this to readers who like:

    Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Chol

    What a treasure of a book. Gorgeous lines of prose are woven into this historical novel. It maybe is a tiny bit overwritten, as I kept pausing to notice these beautiful turns of phrase. The Northeast island setting is so fully realized that it's almost another character in the book. With a plucky heroine, a strong sense of place, interesting characters, and a little bit of a mystery, there's something for many readers here.

    Hand this to readers who like:

    Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko for its atmospheric history...

    Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord for its celebration of island life...

    Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage for Mo's search for her mother and the quirky characters in their town (much different voice, though)...

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