Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck
A wonderful mix of Upstairs Downstairs and The Borrowers, this is the first animal story from the incredible Peck. Helena is the eldest of the Cranston family of mice. Her parents are both dead as are her older sisters. It is 1887 and the human Cranston family is planning a trip to England to get their eldest daughter wed. So the mouse family also has to decide. Do they travel across the dangerous and deadly water with the family or stay behind in an empty house. Helena hopes that the trip will help with some of the problems she has been fretting about. Her younger brother is always getting into scrapes and needs some direction. One of her younger sisters is far too attached to one of the human daughters. So the family embarks on a trip where they discover the large impact a family of mice can have on their humans.
Peck writes with a sly humor here that takes on the establishment and the constraints of society in the late 1800s. The same sort of tiers that make up the human society are found reflected with the mouse society as well. It makes for a delight of a novel that has depth and a lot of heart. Peck’s young heroine, Helena, is a mouse burdened with many cares but who also starts to see herself differently as her travels continue. She is an engaging and richly drawn character.
Peck has also vividly created the setting of a Victorian ship at sea. From the lavish parties to the lifeboat drills, the mice are involved throughout. This is a world of privilege that is gloriously redrawn mouse sized complete with royalty and romance.
Highly recommended, this is a dazzling book that will find a place among other great animal stories. Peck has amazed me once again. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from ARC received from Penguin Young Readers Group.
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