Parents' Guide to

A Crack in the Sea

By Jan Carr, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Unusual mix of history and fantasy makes an engrossing read.

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This absorbing book, an unusual mash-up of historical fiction and fantasy tinged with folklore, succeeds in grounding us in painful periods of history while also transporting us to a magical world. In the hands of a less-skilled writer, A Crack in the Sea might've churned into an indistinct mush, but H. M. Bouwman maintains confident control as she weaves in one thread then another, and takes us on various journeys. The characters are deliberately multiracial -- the Raftworlders are black, the island folk have skin that's lighter brown, and the boat people are Vietnamese. Some are relatably insecure, some have magical powers, and all are plucky. And though the second world is an enviably peaceful place where folks of different races respect and care for one another, it's not without conflict and challenges. And the book has plenty of page-turning suspense from the historical fiction, in which readers can learn about the slave trade and the fall of Saigon.

Striking black-and-white illustrations by Yuko Shimizu are strategically placed and go a long way toward helping readers envision this enchanting sea world and its appealingly multiracial cast of characters. Though one might wish the art were better showcased on a more weighty, less muddy paper stock. Readers from our care-worn world will want to travel to the magical second world, and this book provides the portal.

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