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Hannah: Daughters of the Sea



Rather innocent gothic romance with a fantastic twist.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Includes historical background about 19th-century social classes and a woman's place in society plus information about the status of orphans and the Orphan Train, life in a shipping town and as a household servant.

Positive messages

Themes of self-reliance, listening to your own intuition, and that working hard will get you what you want.

Positive role models

Hannah, the main character, is an ambitious, self-reliant girl who is hardworking, persevering, and observant. She is, however, not above breaking some rules.


Material goods are damaged; a cat is alleged killed; the eldest daughter speaks abusively and tauntingly. Some creepy suspense.


The eldest daughter fantasizes about a painter seeing her naked shoulders and kissing her. Some passionate kissing. Hannah swims naked in the sea and "deep feelings" stir.


Mild utterances such as "cat piss," "damn," and  "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A reference to laudanum and an opium den.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is no bodice ripping in this gothic fantasy. The most you'll find is an unsettling attraction two girls have for a young painter and some passionate kisses. There is also much discussion of the eldest daughter’s madness and the acknowledgement that it might impact her marriage prospects.

What's the story?

When Hannah leaves the orphanage at the age of 15, her first placement via the Orphan Train to Kansas is a disaster. A physical deterioration strikes that necessitates her return to New England where she becomes a scullery maid. A mysterious and tantalizing portrait painter, an obsession with the sea, and a magical transformation help Hannah become her true self.

Is it any good?


This metaphoric coming-of-age tale reels the reader in with a likeable heroine who is smart, hardworking, self-reliant, self-aware, and yet innocent and naïve. A new twist on fantasy by an adept author provides readers a great introduction to gothic romance. Is the eldest daughter of the household truly mad, or simply spoiled and manipulative? Who is the mysterious young painter who compels in Hannah forbidden desires? These mysteries and the requisite foreboding carry the reader along swimmingly.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the societal expectations for young women in the year 1900. How are they vastly different?

  • Were there positive aspects to being a maid rather than being forced into the role a rich young woman had to play?

  • How might such a “madness” be treated in today’s world?

Book details

Author:Kathryn Lasky
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:September 1, 2009
Number of pages:176
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

This review of Hannah: Daughters of the Sea was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old April 2, 2012

Good book!

This book is really good! Hannah really is a good role model for younger kids. The only thing I didn't like, was that Hannah swam naked in the ocean.. I thought she could have at least worn shells or something....
Teen, 16 years old Written byMysterious_ballerina January 31, 2011


Ok so right now this book is my favorite book and it has been for like a year. This book is great I love it ecpecially the romance bettween Hannah and Stannish it's soooo cool. I love this book and I can't wait for the 2 one. This book is educational and Hannah is a great role model. The story is great but there is some violance and the eldest daughter Lila is literly insane plus an insane cat. It's a great book any one should read it but you better be at least 11 :D
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old March 16, 2013

Great Book.

Great book. Hannah swims naked leaving readers to imagine what she looks like naked. Otherwise good book.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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