Beyond the Bright Sea

Roughly once a year comes a children’s book of unexpected brilliance, a book that has you hooked from the first sentence and keeps you eagerly turning pages until the early hours of the morning. It has the feel of an instant classic; and like an addict, you want more. This is such a book.

Wolk’s main character, Crow, is an orphan of twelve who as a baby washed up in a skiff on one of the Elizabeth islands (off the coast of Massachusetts) and was taken in by artist Osh. Together with Osh, Miss Maggie and Mouse the cat, Crow attempts to unravel the mystery of her birth, and find out her connections to the nearby Penikese island, once a leper colony, now a bird sanctuary.

Wolk’s prose is lyrical and deftly measured, clues to Crow’s parentage are delivered steadily through the book, so that the reader is part of the mystery, every step of the way. Wolk’s evocations of a past time feel natural so that the book sits naturally with a present-day reader. The relationships between the main characters are beautiful, and the characterisation is wonderful, with characters who will live on in the imagination long after the book is finished. In my opinion, the best children’s book of the year.

I highly recommend this book to readers of 9 plus.