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Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas ARC {4 Stars}

Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas is a magical realism story about three sisters struggling with the absence of their mother and poverty in a small fishing town. Secrets of Selkie Bay is short and sweet, you can easily finish it in an afternoon, but it drove home to me that aspect of magical realism that I love so much: subtle and open-ended magic hiding in plain sight.

Note: I received an advanced copy of Secrets of Selkie Bay from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas ARC {4 Stars}

Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas
Published by Farrar on July 7th, 2015
Genres: Magical Realism, MG
Page Length: 208 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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In their present-day tourist trap of an Irish seaside town, famed for its supposed involvement with selkies in the past, three sisters are faced with the sudden disappearance of their mother. Crushed by the loss, their father is struggling to carry on. To make matters worse, there are rumors afloat in the village that their mother herself is a selkie who has now shed her human form and gone back to sea. As Cordie Sullivan, the oldest daughter, tries to learn more about her mother's vanishing, she must find the strength to help her family move ahead, even as she discovers an increasing number of clues that point to a hidden island off the coast--a mythical kingdom of the selkies.

4 Stars

Strengths:

  • The obvious first thing to discuss is selkies! I love the story of the selkie (ie a woman who can turn into a seal with a magical cloak but only if a fisherman doesn’t steal that cloak) and really enjoyed how it was woven into the lives of these three sisters. There are also a lot of seal interactions and they are freaking adorable.
  • Secrets of Selkie Bay is very much focused on the bonds between three sisters (well, two and a baby) that are trying to take care of each other while their father does the best he can with the absence of his wife. Even though the girls’ father isn’t around for much of the story, it is clear that he loves them deeply and that strong family bond was great to read about.
  • Since Secrets of Selkie Bay is magical realism, the magic is quite subtle and kind of up in the air the whole story. I loved that the girls didn’t just fall into a magical realm of selkies where all the magic was obvious. Instead, it is their hope and imagination that keep the magic alive and keep the question unanswered of what is really going on with those smart seals ;-).
  • I have such a soft spot for adorable small children and the baby sister is freaking cute! Add to that baby seals that make friends with the girls and my heart was a melted puddle of goo.
  • I really didn’t see the ending of Secrets of Selkie Bay coming which is rather shocking for such a short middle grade story. I of course won’t spoil it, but I dare you to try to guess ;-).
  • Throughout Secrets of Selkie Bay there are chapters that are completely devoted to a story that someone is telling, either from a book or a person. I found this a great way to add a mystical feel to the story without getting bogged down in “he said” over and over as a story was being told, ha. The chapter titles were also then entertaining.

Weaknesses:

  • I am becoming such an adult because when I read about three young kids getting into a boat and sailing off into a fog bank, I can’t help but cringe at what a horrendous decision that is. Also the father thinking it is wise to leave his rather mischievous daughters home only semi-supervised…. It just takes something away from the fun story when I roll my eyes at the unrealistic nature of the situation ;-).
  • I’m still not really sure how I feel about the other adults that show up in Secrets of Selkie Bay too. They are all rather conveniently however they need to act at the time, including a crotchety old man who is then nice and then just strange depending on the moment in the plot.

Summary:

Secrets of Selkie Bay is a delightful middle grade magical realism tale that you can easily devour in an afternoon on the beach (watch out for seals though!). While it has some of the typical problems of middle grade stories, it is full of cute kids and seals and an ending that still managed to surprise me and make me a new fan of magical realism :D.

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya

 

 Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas

© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. I really enjoyed your review and am so interested in this book..I am trying to find good books for my daughter..
    You mentioned that this book has some of the usual problems of middle grade novels..could you mention some of the problems you see in middle grade books? I was just wondering …I am trying to learn more about these types of books and all..Thank you so much!

    • Great to hear! For sure, with middle grade I find that there are often overly convenient plot developments or really foolish adults since “kids won’t notice” or something, but I find that that is underestimating young readers. It just means that I’m all the more pleased when I find middle grade without those issues though ;-)

  2. You probably get this a lot but I adore your layout, it is so creative and pretty!

    Selkies are one of my favourite mythical creatures and I love the sisterhood love, so this book sounds perfect!

    • Thank you so so much! :D I quite adore it as well :D

      Oo yes, you need this book then! I can’t think of another selkie book, hopefully they’ll start becoming more common ;-)

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