Full of Mysteries: BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA by Lauren Wolk

Mystery Month 2017Cindy: Beyond the Bright Sea (2017), Lauren Wolk’s fine follow-up to her 2017 Newbery Honor book, Wolf Hollow, features a young orphan with a mysterious past, a hunt for treasure, and a search for belonging. Said orphan, the twelve-year-old Crow, is named for the rasping cry she emitted when Osh, a reclusive fisherman, found her as an infant in a skiff washed up on his tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts. The locals believe she was born in a nearby leper colony and make her feel every bit the outcast. Crow otherwise enjoys a simple life of checking lobster traps and gardening with Osh and private lessons with a sympathetic tutor named Miss Maggie. The Elizabeth Islands, especially the fictional one where Osh, Crow, and Miss Maggie live, become characters in the novel.

Crow becomes consumed with who she is and where she comes from. She longs to find a blood relative, despite Osh’s disdain for the past and his assurances that “what she does is who she is.” Wolk’s writing is quiet and contemplative throughout much of the story, but there are scenes of adventure and danger, including a hunt for pirate treasure.

By the story’s end, Crow has solved many of the mysteries she set out to unlock, and is closer to understanding what Osh means when tells her she’s “the one worth finding.” Middle-school and upper elementary readers who loved Wolf Hollow won’t be let down.

Lynn: Mysteries abound in Wolk’s beautifully written book. Some of them are solved, while some remain tantalizingly out of reach. Where Osh came from is only one of the questions that flows through the story with the tide. The treasure hunt adds suspense and danger to the story, but its central mysteries of identity and family will linger in readers’ minds.

Many details will intrigue young readers, particularly the astonishing and tragic history of leprosy patients, but the characters and their exquisitely crafted relationships shine the most. Indeed, the Elizabeth Islands should be counted among those characters for Wolk’s fully-realized depiction of their ways, supplemented by additional information in the author’s note.

Since we often complain about book covers, let me say that I loved this one! Beautifully evocative with textual references, it both inviting and entirely fitting for the story contained within.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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