Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Secrets at Sea - Richard Peck

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck
Genre: Middle Grade, animal fiction
Published on October 13, 2011
Published by Dial
Pages: 238
Read From: 7.1.12 - 7.2.12

Helena is big-sister mouse to three younger siblings, living a snug and well-fed life within the ancient walls of the Cranston family home. When the Cranston humans decide to sail away to England to find a husband for one of their daughters, the Cranston mice stow away in the name of family solidarity. 
And so begins the scamper of their lives as Helena, her siblings, and their humans set sail on a life-changing voyage into the great world of titled humans . . . and titled mice, and surprise endings for all.


Cover Blurb: It’s cute and charming, which is exactly in keeping with the story. I love the title’s font and the colors; very vibrant and fun. What I don’t quite like is the title itself. It doesn’t really capture much of what the story is about.

What I Liked: Helena is a plucky mouse heroine who takes the job of looking after her siblings very seriously. Even so, her fussing and worrying doesn’t get annoying because the behavior of her siblings really does warrant it. Helena treats Louise far better than Louise certainly deserves, I thought, which was commendable. I loved the illustrations because the mice actually looked like real mice, and not characterized cartoons.

What I Disliked: I would have liked to have known Olive better. The mice and other people are always hinting that there’s some reason why no one will marry her, but I never really gathered why it was, and since Olive’s predicament is what starts the adventure in the first place, I think Olive should have been given a bit more writing attention than she was.

Believability: Well, we are talking about mice who sew, wear clothes, talk, drink coffee, write, and do other things that real mice cannot, and do not, do. So believability is a hard thing to talk about at all.

Writing Style: This is the first Richard Peck story I have read, and I must say that I am positively in love with his simple, but funny and charming, writing style. It would have delighted me when I was little, and it delights me as an adult. For a charming little story like this, Richard Peck’s style is perfect. It isn’t beautiful like Rosemary Sutcliff’s, but it has it’s own charm. It isn’t sophisticated like a lot of classics, but it doesn’t talk down to its Reader. It isn’t bitingly sarcastic like Charles Dickens‘s, but it is amusing.

Content: Nothing.

Conclusion: It has some surprises, but everything of course works out well and things end happily, just as charming adventures with talking animals usually do. I’m being slightly sarcastic, but I’m not complaining; Secrets at Sea begged for a happy ending for all characters, so it fit.

Recommended Audience: Kids, of course, and people who like stories about talking animals, but want something very quick and short to read. Girls might like this one better than guys.

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