Thursday, March 02, 2023

When Sea Becomes Sky

McDunn, Gillian. When Sea Becomes Sky
February 28th 2023 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Bex and her brother Davey live on Pelican Island with their father, who is a ferry boat driver, and their mother, a high school biology teacher who came to the island to do research and still does some in the summer. Lately, the mother has been very tired, and takes naps unexpectedly. Davey is selectively mute and will only talk to Bex, but the two are given free reign of the island to explore during the summer. Their favorite place to be is the wetlands of The Thumb, but things are not great there since there hasn't been rain on the island for nearly a year. Because of the low water level, they find a metal statue and try to investigate what it is and how it got there. After finding out that there is going to be a bridge built to the mainland, Bex hopes that the statue might halt the construction and save an area dear to her heart. She also worries that her father might be out of work because of the construction, and when she talks to him, he mentions that the family might move to the mainland so that her mother can go back to working for a university. For some reason, even though Bex had hoped to write for the local newspaper, she hasn't read the paper for a long time, and has missed the news of the bridge. She's also not talked to her former friend, Millie, who visits her grandmother every summer, Mrs. Ochoa, who runs a local market. In order to find out more about the statue, she writes to the Port Rogers art museum. They answer, and tell her that they are having an exhibition of local artist Effie Framingham's work, and that the artist used a similar mark to the one they've found on the statue. They concoct an elaborate plan to get to the  mainland to see the exhibit, and some BIG secrets are revealed. Will it be enough to save Bex's world, or will she have to come to terms with some big issues and learn to move along. 
Strengths: Wow. That was a big twist that I absolutely did not see coming. I mean, POW!, it hit me upside the head. That's pretty rare in a book. I saw some clues, but interpretted them as leading somewhere else. For a book that deals with a number of sad issues, this is surprisingly upbeat, and the mystery of the artwork, as well as the environmental themes, are quite interesting. 
Weaknesses: The environmental aspect of this, and the issues facing Pelican Island because of the building, were the most interesting part of this for me, and when the big twist happened, the focus of the story took another direction. 
What I really think: I like to see books with environmental themes, like Dilloway's Where the Sky Lives, Hurwitz's Hello from Renn Lake, Johnson's Rescue at Wild Lake, Guillory's Nowhere Better Than Here, Rodriguez, S.A. Treasure Tracks, Marcks' Shark Summer, and this author's The Queen Bee and Me. Ultimately, however, this ended up being a book more about grief than anything else. I would keep a close eye on this for being a Newbery contender in 2023. 
Ms. Yingling

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