Beyond the Bright Sea

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Beyond the Bright Sea Book Poster Image
Moving adventure story of tween's search for her origins.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Insight into life on the Massachussetts coast in the 1920s, especially culture and geography. Author's note provides some details about the community of people with Hansen's disease (leprosy) on one of the islands, some of the real history of the area, and how Hansen's disease has been handled (or not) in the past.

Positive Messages

Family that you make is no less important or real than family you're born into. There are stronger bonds than blood. What you do shows who you are. Happiness is being where, and who, you want to be. Encourages empathy and compassion for people who have Hansen's disease (leprosy).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Crow, 12, is a great role model for natural curiosity, observing the world around her, wanting people to be treated fairly, bravery, and solving problems by carefully thinking them through. Osh and Miss Maggie are great models of loving, patient guidance that still lets Crow work things out for herself as much as possible.


A bad guy knocks a door down, tears a cottage apart, and threatens to burn it and the people in it. Blood from injuries mentioned a couple times but not described. People are tied up and gagged a couple times. Some scariness from themes of loss, including the story of a stillborn baby in the past, and tension and suspense from a pursuit by a bad guy and the island community rescuing sailors from a shipwreck.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Osh disapproves of using brandy as a remedy for a teething baby. Crow sees a cigar butt in an alley.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beyond the Bright Sea is the second children's book by the author of Wolf Hollow. It's not as dark or emotionally intense, but there are themes of loss in the story of a stillborn child in the past and a 12-year-old adopted child's search for her birth parents. There's a scary bad guy and suspense, and blood's mentioned a few times but not described in detail. The book explores themes of family (especially adoption), identity, and belonging. Great messages about how the family you make isn't less real or important than family you're born into, and the main characters all are positive role models for love, loyalty, and unwavering support of one another.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bygrandmareader December 10, 2018

Historical fiction of abandoned baby girl from a leper colony

Crow has an interesting life surrounded by nature and strong and decent individuals who care for her. She finds out that she was abandoned as an infant from a... Continue reading
Adult Written bycaik June 9, 2019
Not for 10-year-olds. Movies have PG-13 ratings, and the violence in this book lends itself to needing an older rating as well.
Kid, 10 years old April 24, 2020

why beyond the bright sea is awesome

I think this was an amazing book. It's very mysterious. At the beginning Crow barely knows anything about who she is or where she came from. You know she... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 18, 2020

This is a great book!!!

Crow is a great character, and her story is heart-warming. A definite must-read!

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Crow may have to look BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA when a bonfire on a nearby island sparks her curiosity about who her parents were and where they came from. Crow was taken in by Osh, the only person living on a tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts, when she was only a few hours old. She and Osh work hard for the things they need, but they don't need much and have always been content together. But as she grows older and learns more about the world around her, Crow really wants to know more about herself, too. Her search takes her to an orphanage in the city, to a tiny graveyard on a nearby island, and across the path of a madman who'll stop at nothing to find a pirate's treasure.

Is it any good?

Author Lauren Wolk weaves a beautiful tapestry of pirate-treasure adventure, suspense, a search for family, and warm family bonds that'll keep the pages turning and the heartstrings tugging. Beyond the Bright Sea is not as dark and intense as Wolk's YA debut, Wolf Hollow, but the mystery, characters, and vivid sense of place make it hard to put down.

Tweens will relate to Crow as she explores how her family origins define, and don't define, who she is. The rhythmic writing and suspenseful chapter endings make it great for reading aloud, too. Everyone from big kids up to adults will be deeply moved by Crow's adventures and the lessons she learns about family and happiness. Keep a tissue nearby when you get to the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Beyond the Bright Sea shows what a family is. Do Osh and Miss Maggie do the kinds of things parents do for a child? What do your family and loved ones do for you?

  • What makes Crow a good role model? What do you like about her? How could you be more like her?

  • If you found a buried treasure, what would you do with it? Share it, spend it, hide it, give it away?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure and stories of adoption

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