I loved this book! Strange tells the beautiful story of a little girl who taps into her own strength, her family’s live and the lord of her community to make a huge impact in World War II.
Petra Zimmermann Smith lives in a lighthouse on the cliffs of England with her mother, father and sister. As the younger sister, she is the more timid and oft overlooked one. As the war encroaches on her family and her life, however, Petra is forced to deal with unbearable uncertainty and pain with incredible faith and resilience.
As we watch Petra’s story unfold, we are also watching the story of racism, fear and national pride that invaded England with the German invasion. Petra’s observations of her family and her town are quietly observant, if sometimes naive. As her mother, father, sister and health are stripped from her in different ways, we see Petra’s quiet dignity and grasp of her heritage turn her into the hero that her community needs.
Strange is a master craftsman with this story. Her characters and plot are rich and believable. The setting is beautiful and palpable. The fear, doubt, suspicion and joy that she evokes through her story are palpable. And the way she touches the reader’s heart through this little girl’s quest to come to terms with both the past and the future is breathtaking.
Some of the themes that Strange touches upon in Our Castle By the Sea are strikingly contemporary and relevant. The delineation of people by ethnicity is not so foreign a concept in our modern times and Strange’s words encourage the reader to consider those lines through her rich and graphic prose. I found this book to be as gorgeously written as it is emotional and educational.
While this booked is billed as children’s fiction, it was a delight for this adult reader. It’s truly historical fiction at its finest and it reads like a more poetic version of The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Having never read (or even heard of Strange’s first book, The Secret of Nightingale Wood, I was delightedly surprised to discover this work from Strange. At 336 pages, it’s on the long side for the 8 and up crowd but would make a great parent-child read aloud, in my opinion. You can bet I’ll be doubling back to check out Nightingale Wood in the very near future!
I can’t say enough about Our Castle the Sea! It releases on April 30th from The Chicken House. I highly recommend preordering a copy for yourself, your favorite tween or to share!