The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea: The Story of Annaliese Easterling & Throckmorton, Her Simply Remarkable Sock Monkey

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea:  The Story of Annaliese Easterling & Throckmorton, Her Simply Remarkable Sock Monkey Book Poster Image
Sock monkey has heart in mystery with charm, little sparkle.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Some sewing techniques and terms are given but not explained in detail.

Positive Messages

Everything you need to live a rich and happy life are love, loyalty, listening, and a never-ending smile. Keeping secrets causes more problems than telling the truth in the first place: "A secret is safest when everyone knows it."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Throckmorton, the sock-monkey narrator, only wants to help his keeper, Annaliese. He's sometimes frustrated because he can't move, but he remains steadfast and loyal to Annaliese and her family. Annaliese works hard to see a job through, is selfless, and shows concerned for others' well-being. Annaliese's twin brothers are mischievous troublemakers, but they don't really want to hurt anyone and ultimately do the right thing. The father, Judge Easterling, is stern and distant but eventually thaws. The only real villain is the housemaid Madge, who's mean to the children and steals from the family, and the consequences of her actions are told. Olivia, the mother, learns that she lost a lot of years with her family because she gave up too easily and should have fought harder when it really counted.

Violence & Scariness

Parental loss is the central mystery of the story: how and why Annaliese's mother abandoned the family. Eventually all sides of the story are known, but there's a lot of sadness, longing, and frustration along the way. Brothers Evan and Teddy get in one physical fight that includes brief mention of spitting, a choke hold, and an elbow to the chest. The siblings investigate a scary dark corner of the attic. A snowball fight results in a split lip and a nosebleed, and a spray of blood and bloodstained snow are mentioned.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the central mystery in The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea involves parental loss. The only thing the Easterling children know about their mother is that she abandoned them when Annaliese was only a few months old; their father forbids any mention of her. On the way to the happy ending, there's a brief physical fight between brothers, and elsewhere blood from a nosebleed is mentioned. Alcohol's mentioned or vaguely described a few times, including several mentions of spiked punch at a party. Brief mention is made of kisses tasting like licorice. Otherwise romance is presented as mysterious and complicated. But through it all, Throckmorton the sock monkey models love, empathy, and caring support.

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What's the story?

When Throckmorton S. (for Sock) Monkey receives an invitation to Great-Grandmama's 90th birthday gala, he's taken out of storage and reunited with his keeper Annaliese, who's 9. Throckmorton thinks that if he can just do something important and memorable, he'll never be stored away again. But how can a mere stuffed toy, which can't even move or speak, do something memorable? As preparations for the big party get under way, Annaliese and her brothers discover clues to their mother's past and why she mysteriously abandoned the family. Annaliese hopes that with the entire family reunited, each with their own sock monkey handmade by Great-Grandmama, she'll finally learn the truth about her mother -- and maybe even find a way to meet her at long last.

Is it any good?

Early independent readers will enjoy seeing the world through Throckmorton's eyes. His feelings of powerlessness that come from not being able to move or speak will resonate with kids as they learn to navigate an ever-expanding world. They'll also admire Annaliese as she tries to find answers and never gives up.

 Author Eileen Beha creates an intriguing and believable, if not particularly vivid, sense of place that's just outside of any specific time period. The simple language will make it easy for kids to access the story, but it also lacks any sort of rhythm, poetry, or sparkle. The mystery's not quite compelling enough to keep the pages quickly turning, but kids who like intrigue and unfolding a mystery at a slower pace will find a lot to enjoy here.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about having a favorite toy or stuffed animal. Do you have a favorite toy or stuffed animal? Do you talk to it or hug it, the way Annaliese talks to Throckmorton? 

  • What other stories do you know about toys with feelings? Do you have a favorite? Do you like The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea as much as you like your favorite?

  • Great-Grandmama teaches Annaliese how to make a sock monkey. Has an older person such as a grandparent taught you how to do something? What did he or she teach you?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and family stories

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