Beyond the Bright Sea

304p. Dutton. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101994856.
RedReviewStarGr 5–8—The definition of family and one young girl's struggle to find out who she really is take center stage in Wolk's follow-up to her Newbery Honor book, Wolf Hollow. As long as she can remember, Crow has lived her whole life on the sleepy island of Cuttyhunk, part of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. When she was a baby, only days old, a lonely fisherman named Osh found her moored on the rocks after being set adrift in a shabby rowboat. The only place Crow could have safely come from and still survived the boat trip is the neighboring island of Penikese, whose sole occupants were the patients and staff of a leper colony. Many of the townspeople avoid Crow like the plague, assuming that she carries the disease despite exhibiting no physical symptoms. Even though Crow is loved by her adoptive father and their kind and helpful neighbor Miss Maggie, she is determined to discover where she comes from and (hopefully) locate her birth family. Wolk's writing is lyrical and heartrending. Her impeccable research of the area during the 1920s (described in a lengthy author's note) is on full display. Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie are fully fleshed-out characters who jump off the page. Wolk strikingly conveys the intense feelings of hope and anxiety Crow and Osh experience, respectively, as Crow sets out to track down her birth family. This is a tear-jerking yet ultimately uplifting tale of establishing one's place in the world and realizing that sometimes your family is the one you make, not the one you are born into.
VERDICT A stellar story full of heart, action, and emotion that will make readers feel like they are a part of Crow's family.

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