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. The masterful Richard Peck brings all of his talents to this tale of two branches of an American family, set on the eve of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. There are plenty of laughs and thrills, and of course there’s a ship’s cat too. Will our Cranston heroes squeak by, or will they go entirely overboard?
This book brought back memories of childhood. I went through this phase where I’d only (or at least mainly) read books about animals and I guess there’s a part of me that always will love stories of this nature. I would have adored this book even more as kid and I almost wish it had been around ten or so years ago. The truth is we never really know what animals think or do when we’re not looking and I’m always interested in stories that play on this concept.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is a children’s book. The story telling was impeccable as was the characterization and writing. I always find the story telling, that is the flow of plot and mood, in children’s books to be far superior to that in books for teens or adults. There are no loose ends, no wasted words and the story engages you from start to finish. Seemingly irrelevant details always come into play later on and the book ties off neatly at the end. You are only left wondering about the future, what happens after the book ends, not questioning gaps in the story.
The characters are quirky and memorable and surprisingly well fleshed out for such a short book. The world building is smart and I love the way mice are integrated into the human world. It is funny at times and sad at others, but always works out in the end. There is a touch of romance but at it’s heart it is a story about family. All of this together made the story sweet and cute which is what I was looking for when I picked it up. The illustrations are wonderfully imaginative and really add to the story. Secrets at Sea leaves you feeling warm and happy and slightly sad, which is how all good books should leave you. Recommended.