A Crack in the Sea

illus. by Yuko Shimizu. 368p. further reading. Putnam. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399545191.
Gr 5 Up—This engaging and wistful novel reimagines the outcome of tragic events from the past with a magical bent through three sibling-centered stories. First, readers meet Pip and his sister Kinchen, who live in the "second world" on one of the few pieces of viable land, the island of Tathenn. The rest of the population live on a giant community of rafts bound together, called Raftworld, ruled by the Raft King. Select people in this world are born with gifts—storytelling, the capacity to walk on water, and, in Pip's case, the ability to communicate with fish and other sea creatures. Next, readers are introduced to Venus and Swimmer, twins who, after being captured by a "first world" slave ship in 1781, eventually lead their people to freedom by going through a crack in the sea to the second world. Finally, there's Thanh, his sister Sang, and several relatives, who flee war-torn Vietnam in 1976 in search of a better life. A difficult journey, including a violent encounter with Thai pirates, leaves them desperate and hungry in the middle of the ocean. Though the plot is complicated and fantastical, Bouwman's world is never difficult to understand, and the three sibling tales eventually interweave beautifully. Shimizu's black-and-white illustrations enhance the narrative's progression. An afterword and further reading list provide insight and ideas for readers interested in the terrible true account of the Zong slave ship, which inspired the author.
VERDICT Fans of Grace Lin will love this wholly original book that reads like a fairy tale. A moving and thought-provoking choice for library collections.

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