Monday, September 12, 2011

MMGM: Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck ... And a WINNER!

First, I should announce the winner of last week's giveaway.  According to, the hardcover copy of 13 Gifts by Wendy Mass goes to:

Jill of the O.W.L.

Congrats, Jill!  Expect an email from me asking for your address, so I can mail your prize to you!  And thanks to all for entering. Now on to today's MMGM!

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (coming Oct 13, 2011 from Dial Books for Young Readers, for ages 8 to 12).

Source: advanced reading copy from the publisher (final art not seen)

Synopsis (from the publisher): In the beloved tradition of The Borrowers, The Tale of Despereaux, and The Cricket in Times Square, here is an irresistible adventure story of the tiny individuals who secretly live among us humans.

Helena is big-sister mouse to three younger siblings, living a snug and well-fed life within the ancient walls of the Cranston family home.  When the Cranston humans decide to sail away to England in search of a husband for their awkward older daughter, the Cranston mice stow away in the luggage . . . and so begins the time of their lives, as they meet intriguing, cosmopolitan mice onboard and take it upon themselves to help the human Cranston daughters find love. They might just find perfect futures for themselves as well!

Full of laughs, near-misses, and surprise, this is Richard Peck at his best and most playful.

Why I liked it:  Helena's story is utterly charming. This reminds me, right down to the pencil drawings by Kelly Murphy, of one of my favorite animal tales, Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp.  But the plot is unique and quintessentially Peck.  He's included sly little asides that might go over the head of a young reader, but would be thoroughly enjoyed by a parent or grandparent reading aloud to a child.  Wish I could quote from the ARC, dang it all! But there's a moment where he makes a cheeky reference to a very well known children's book about a mouse.  I laughed out loud.  

I adored the idea of the mice having to fix everything for those poor clueless humans.  Plus there are cute mice in Victorian clothing, the ingenious use of thimbles, lots of cheese, and a one-eyed cat.  Irresistible!

Richard Peck is probably our greatest living children's writer.  He's written a slew of books, won a Newbery medal and a Newbery honor, the Edgar Award, the Scott O'Dell award, the Christopher Medal, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement.   


(get this) 

he's coming to the bookstore where I work!!  

Can you hear me squealing?  If you live anywhere near the Philadelphia area, please come to Chester County Book & Music Company on Monday Oct 24 at 6:30 pm to meet the inimitable Richard Peck.  It's possible that after his visit I'll be giving away a signed hardcover copy.  Stay tuned.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger.  Other regulars include (but are not limited to):

Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now 
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty
Ms. Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads

Are you a fan of Tale of Despereaux or The Borrowers?  Then you'll love this book.   If not, what's YOUR favorite animal fantasy?  


  1. I'm so glad you reviewed this one! I have been thinking it looked adorable, but haven't had a chance to check it out. Thanks, Joanne!! :-)

  2. This is now a MUST read. Thanks for sharing it, Joanne!

  3. Wow! This sounds fantastic! Thank you for the advance review. And how wonderful he's coming to your store!!!

  4. Thanks, Shannon. It's definitely adorable.

    Hi Deb! Thanks for stopping by. How's the renovating going?

    Yes, Barbara! We're all thrilled. Thanks.

  5. That deserves a Squee! all around. I think I mentioned Richard Peck was the surprise guest speaker at SCBWI this summer. I kid you not, women were swooning when they heard.

    He's a lovely man.


  6. Hi Joanne. My friend Kate (KM Walton) said I should follow your blog. So here I am, and I'm glad I did.

    Nice ta meet ya!

  7. This sounds good. To be honest, I'm not a fan of books with animals as main characters. But I just finished Hilary Wagner's The White Assassin and am changing my mind. Hers is the only animal-main-character series I've liked so far.

    Thanks for the review.

  8. How great that he's coming to your store!

    I recently read and liked The Rats of Nimh.

  9. Oh ha ha, Danika. Yes, my heart is going pitter-pat! And I had heard that he was the surprise guest speaker at SCBWI. You were so lucky to be there!

    Welcome, Matt! Nice to meet you too. And thanks for following (and thanks, Kate!). I'm actually one of your followers already, Matt. I'll have to start visiting your blog more often!

    Hi Natalie. I'm not usually a huge fan of all-animal fantasies (for instance, I couldn't get into Warriors by Erin Hunter), but what I liked about this book is the intersection of the mouse world with the human world. And yes, I love Hilary Wagner's books! So much action.

    Hi Michael. It's been a while since I read Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I should look at that again.

  10. This is in my pile--I'm looking forward to it even more now! Thanks!

  11. Welcome to the blog, Charlotte! And thank YOU.

  12. This looks like something my daughter would love. I'm reading The Familiars right now and loving it. I know agents and publishers hate talking animals but the kids love them.

    Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of Nihm is still my fave as a kid.

  13. Hi Brooke! I know. Everyone says publishers hate talking animals, but they certainly publish a lot of them!

    Tried to read The Familiars and was unable to get past the second chapter. Maybe it's just me.

    I do love Mrs Frisby and the Rats though.


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