Parents' Guide to

Sea Prayer

By Jan Carr, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Powerful, heartrending letter from refugee dad to his son.

Sea Prayer Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 7+

Based on 1 parent review

age 7+

Brief insights into war from a child's point of view

This is a beautiful but simple children's book. I wonder if we adults are tempted to withhold the book from younger kids, not because of the book itself but because of what it's about. The poetic language and the gentle watercolors help distance the subject matter from the reader. For me, the page most questionable for children reads, "You [my son] know a bomb crater can be made into a swimming hole. You have learned dark blood is better news than bright." When your curious child asks you, "Why is dark blood better than bright?" If you can imagine a good answer for their age, then I believe the two of you will have a positive reading experience. The author does a wonderful job of focusing adult attention on what was lost, acknowledging little kids won't remember the idyllic past, but seeing how kids can find good and play even in a bomb crater. The book ends with a lie - the author lies to his son that he'll be safe at sea. "These are only words. A father's tricks. It slays your father, your faith in him." But the author's gaze on the good which kids find or do in war reveals a deeper faith. I think a kid would need to be age 9 or more to begin to comprehend such layers of lying and irony. But I believe most younger readers would not be harmed by this book.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1):
Kids say (1):

This slim, masterful book flows from the heart, mourning a city reduced to rubble and a childhood lost to war, while sending up a prayer that heaving waters will deliver a child to safety. Hosseini is a gorgeous writer, and he's chiseled and polished Sea Prayer like a gem, offering just the right sensory detail to evoke the pleasures of the old life. When he was a boy, he and his brothers spread their mattresses on the roof of their farmhouse, and woke "to the stirrings of olive trees in the breeze, to the bleating of your grandmother’s goat." In contrast, his young son knows "how a bomb crater can be made into a swimming hole." Now they wait in a crowd of other refugees, "the women worrying in tongues we don’t speak." And he reassures his son that "Nothing bad will happen," though the words are just "a father's tricks." The letter format, speaking directly to the son, gives the text a poignant immediacy.

Though the subject matter is adult, and text is written for "all ages," this book is accessible to older kids, and has the pleasures of a picture book. Turning the page provides rhythm; some text is isolated on a page for stronger effect. Illustrator Dan Williams paints the happy memories with light and color, but as they wait on the shore, the moody midnight blues of the sea and sky underscore the uncertainty of their journey.

Book Details

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