The best middle grade books about kids at odds with the sea

The Books I Picked & Why

Beyond the Bright Sea

By Lauren Wolk

Book cover of Beyond the Bright Sea

Why this book?

Beyond the Bright Sea tells the story of twelve-year-old Crow, who was abandoned and set adrift in a rowboat when she was just hours old in the Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Lauren Wolk does a seamless job weaving mystery into Crow's world as Crow begins to question her identity and the consequences of receiving answers, or not, about her past. Winner of the Scott O'Dell Award, this book helped me understand my own character's heart-wrenching questions of belonging and what it means to be a family, and I could not put it down! 

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Treasure Island

By Robert Louis Stevenson

Book cover of Treasure Island

Why this book?

You cannot attempt to write a swashbuckling story without first indulging in one of the most iconic pirate stories to date. Teenage Jim Hawkins boards a ship to locate the lost treasure of an infamous pirate and outwits a gang of murderous pirates led by Long John Silver. 

I loved this book because it is the foundation of many beloved pirate stories, with the rush of sailing, the sting of mutiny, the thrill of treasure hunting, the recklessness of pirates, all set in a steamy, tropical paradise.

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The Lightning Thief

By Rick Riordan

Book cover of The Lightning Thief

Why this book?

The Lightning Thief was the first middle-grade that had me laughing out loud. It's the story of Percy Jackson, the demi-god son of Poseidon, and his quest to capture the thief who stole Zeus' lightning bolt. 

Rick Riordan cleverly weaves humor into every action scene, and I love that he incorporates Greek Mythology throughout. This book is a must-read for anyone writing for today's generation of kids or who just wants to enjoy a good story for themselves.  

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Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Scott O’Dell

Book cover of Island of the Blue Dolphins

Why this book?

Island of the Blue Dolphins is shelved in the children's books Hall of Fame for a reason. Based on a true story, this book is about twelve-year-old Karana, who is stranded on an island and must learn to survive—for years. I loved reading about how Karana learns to find food and make shelter and how she becomes in tune with nature and the sea. What really hits home is that this is a story about forgiveness, a powerful theme that is also the focus of my own book.

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Josephine Against the Sea

By Shakirah Bourne

Book cover of Josephine Against the Sea

Why this book?

Josephine Against the Sea was a new find for me since it debuted in 2021, but I instantly connected with the trouble-maker main character. Josephine is desperate to keep her father from finding love after her mother dies, but when a vengeful sea creature tries to steal her father's heart, she must use her talent to save him before it's too late. 

I loved learning about Josephine's Caribbean culture living in Barbados. It was also intriguing to read how Shakirah Bourne tackled a mother's death and its effects on the father, as this is a struggle my own characters face in my book.

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