Review: Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck

secrets at sea

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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Best Picture Books of 2011


The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art has Susan Bloom’s picks for best picture books of 2011.  Susan Bloom is Professor Emeritus at Simmons College and a reviewer for The Horn Book.

Her picks are filled with my personal favorites but she also has some books that I have yet to get my hands on.  Some even that I can’t find in our library system catalog, which is quite unusual. 

So enjoy her list!  I’m sure you will find new reads in it.

The First Annual Nerdies

nerdy book club

The Nerdy Book Club invited nominations for the best children’s and young adult books of 2011.  If you missed that call for nominations (like I did) you can still participate!  You now have the chance to vote for your favorite books among the nominees. 

And let me tell you, the nomination lists are good enough that choices are very painful.  I was happy to see that the votes are broken down by category, so you can pick a few favorite picture books, then vote for teen fiction separately. 

I’ve voted, I’ve added new books to my reading pile, and I am impressed with the caliber of the nominees.  I can’t wait to see who wins!