Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Polk

I just finished reading Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Sea, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book tells the story of twelve-year-old Crow who has lived her entire life in the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. She was abandoned as an infant and set adrift on a sinking skiff, luckily rescued by Osh, a man hiding from his past, and Miss Maggie, Osh’s kindly neighbor. Crow knows she is different from the other islanders and is curious about her history. When a campfire appears on another island nearby, Crow finds an opportunity to investigate and so begins her adventure.

Beyond the Bright Sea is an excellent new middle-grade classic that I think will appeal to many students. It does start out a little slow, but the writing is beautiful and the pace picks up as Crow finds opportunities to learn about herself and her fellow islanders. Much of the story is based on real places and real events, so if an educator wanted to use it as a whole-class novel, there are plenty of opportunities to research and explore along the way. The writing provides plenty of examples of shifting tone and mood, beautiful imagery, and both subtle and not-so-subtle characterization methods. Ultimately, it is an engaging read and a lovely exploration of otherness, family, belonging, and love.

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