A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Osh disapproves of using brandy as a remedy for a teething baby. Crow sees a cigar butt in an alley.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.