Beyond the Bright Sea

Lauren Wolk

All Crow knows is that she was washed up on a remote island as a baby.  Taken in by the reclusive Osh and watched over by Miss Maggie, Crow grows to love the sea, stars and simple pleasures of island life.  One day however she sees a fire on the neighbouring island of Penikese, once a leper colony, and decides it is time to find out what is going on.  This starts her on a journey to discover where she came from and who she really is.

This is an absorbing story about discovering your own identity and what family really means.  It has some serious themes, but is also a treasure hunt, with clues to tracked down and danger to faced.  It draws on the real life use of Penikese Island off the coast of Massachusetts as a leper colony and raises challenging questions about how we respond to fear and treat people who are different.  Wolk brings to life the beauty and isolation of island life with the islands themselves becoming characters in the book. Osh and Miss Maggie demonstrate both the attractions of self reliance and the importance of trust and connections with others.  It is suitable for slightly younger readers than Wolk’s first book, Wolf Hollow (which is more for 11+) but probably best suited to confident readers.

Year 5&6 book club found this quite a different style from some of the books they had read recently, but nonetheless enjoyed it.  For some it was a new favourite.  It prompted discussions about family and identity and there was a strong view that family was more than who you were related to by blood.  We explored what we thought Crow looked like based on her name and what animals we would be named after.  We finished up by making our own treasure chests.