2011 was a big year for mice. The eponymous Babymouse had two new adventures, including the delightfully wacky A Babymouse Christmas, Geronimo Stilton introduced a new friend, Creepella Von Cacklefur, in some spooky new adventures, Lois Lowery gave us a band of church mice in Bless This Mouse and Pip and friends helped Skilley the cat in The Cheshire Cheese Cat. And then there was Helena, Louise, Beatrice and Lamont, stars of Richard Peck’s Secrets at Sea, and their great adventure across the Atlantic Ocean.
Helena is the oldest Cranston, and as such it is her responsibility to look after her two sisters and her brother. Helena wasn’t always the oldest, but we don’t talk of such things. When their human family, the Upstairs Cranstons, decide to go away to Europe in order to fetch oldest daughter Olive a husband, Helena decides they will be going too, despite the fact that mice and water do not mix. Once on board the ship to England, their adventures truly begin. There is romance, intrigue, a one-eyed cat, a naughty nanny and lots and lots of mice on Helena’s road to finding her place in the world.
Confession time: I’ve never read Richard Peck before. I know! I hang my head in shame. Secrets at Sea was my first Peck, and I can promise it won’t be my last. His command of character is so strong; I could hear each one of the sisters’ voices in my head clear as day. Secondary characters like the Upstairs Cranstons, the elderly Duchess of Cheddar Gorge and ship steward Nigel (he of the wonderful whiskers) are drawn with equal vigor. Illustrations by Kelly Murphy perfectly punctuated important moments with delicate detail and shading. I was quite enchanted with this little tale of adventure on the high seas. I couldn’t have asked for a better lead in to the Peck’s work than to be put in Helena’s capable narrative hands.
Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck
Note: I have since read A Long Way From Chicago. Whew, what a book!