Gifts From The Sea by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, Judy Pedersen |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Gifts From The Sea

Gifts From The Sea

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by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, Judy Pedersen

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Quila and her father, living alone in a remote Maine lighthouse in the 1850s, find their lives profoundly changed when a baby washes ashore and they decide to keep her as part of their family.


Quila and her father, living alone in a remote Maine lighthouse in the 1850s, find their lives profoundly changed when a baby washes ashore and they decide to keep her as part of their family.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Inspired by the true story of a mid-19th-century lighthouse keeper who found a baby washed ashore, this atmospheric historical novel focuses on the keeper's 12-year-old daughter. Quila, the narrator, has never lived anywhere but Devils Rock Island. She and her father are having trouble coping with the death of Quila's mother, but the arrival of baby Cecelia (whose name means "gift from the sea") helps bring them back to life. Two years later, Cecelia's aunt Margaret comes to the island in search of her niece, and Quila tries to escape with the baby and nearly drowns. Kinsey-Warnock (The Canada Geese Quilt) gives a touching picture of the broken family's isolation and loneliness on the rocky island and their gradual healing, but there are flaws. The well-researched period details compete with the often modern-sounding narration. And a fantasy-like sequence as Quila is drowning seems out of place in an otherwise realistic novel: just as Quila sinks "down, down to where the fishes would feast on [her] bones," she and Celia are miraculously rescued by a pod of seals and, perhaps, by the ghost of Celia's mother. These problems notwithstanding, readers will be comforted by the author's emphasis on warmth and family, and are likely to admire Quila's sturdy independence and resilience. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This is a brief, illustrated story of a family living off the coast of Maine during the mid-1800s. After the death of her mother, Quila is alone with her depressed father on the island where they tend the lighthouse. In a storm, a baby girl is washed ashore, and they adopt the child as their own, with little Celia helping to alleviate their grief. Months pass, storms come and go. Then a woman visits them, searching for a place to grieve for her sister, who drowned off the coast. It is discovered that this woman, Margaret, is the aunt of little Celia, but Quila and her father can't imagine giving up the beloved child. Quila even bundles Celia up and rows away with her, thinking to hold on to her that way, but rough waters turn the little boat over and seals come to save the two girls from drowning. Margaret stays with them for six months, and her presence becomes essential to the happiness of them all, including Quila's father, who resolves the dilemma by marrying Margaret and keeping them all together. The wind, waves, seals, sea glass, and sea birds are part of the story as much as the humans are, and the world on the edge of the sea is captured beautifully by Kinsey-Warnock, who is also the author of The Canada Geese Quilt. KLIATT Codes: J�Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Random House, Knopf, 112p. illus.,
— Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Quila MacFarlane's father tends the lighthouse on Devil's Rock, a remote island off the coast of Maine, and when her mother dies, the lonely 12-year-old assumes the role of cook and housekeeper. One day, after a ship goes down, she finds two small mattresses tied together. Inside is a baby. Now the girl has more work than ever, but Celia brings new life to the island, even giving some joy to Quila's grieving father. But then a woman arrives, wanting to say good-bye to her sister who died in a shipwreck, and Quila and Papa realize that she is Celia's aunt. Quila is torn between hating this stranger who threatens to take the child away, and loving her for the friendship she brings. Similar in theme and style to Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall (HarperCollins, 1985), this is a lovingly drawn portrait of a girl and her father struggling to cope with a devastating loss. Quila's ever-shifting feelings of resentment, guilt, and love toward her father, Celia, and Celia's aunt are perfectly captured and believable, as are her conflicting desires to be responsible and to be free to enjoy her childhood. Interspersed throughout the novel are details of the lonely, difficult life as a lighthouse keeper in 1858. Pedersen's stylized, almost folksy pencil drawings appear throughout the text. This is a compelling novel, with small suspenseful moments to draw readers in, and a brave and thoughtful heroine.-Ashley Larsen, Woodside Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gently predictable story about a mid-19th-century girl living in a lighthouse. Quila is 12 when her mother dies, leaving her and her father alone off the Maine coast in the lighthouse that he tends. A shipwreck washes ashore a small bundle made of two mattresses, and there's a baby in it. They name her Celia, and Quila's grief at missing her mother becomes bound up in the endless care a baby takes. When a plucky Irish immigrant named Margaret comes looking for some information on her sister lost at sea, it's discovered that her sister may be Celia's mother. Margaret spends six months at the lighthouse, learning to love the place while Quila frets over the coming loss of Celia to Margaret. Predictably, Margaret and Quila's father fall in love and decide to marry, with promises of trips to the mainland for Quila to see all the things her mother promised her. Much atmospheric description of the flora and fauna-but not much to challenge the imagination. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Random House Childrens Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Gifts from the Sea

By Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2003 Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0375922571

A northeast wind was blowing the day we buried Mama on a hill overlooking the sea. I remember that particularly because I knew a storm was coming, had known it for days. Mama always said the sea was in my blood. Once, when I'd cut my finger, I'd tasted the blood and it was salty, so I guess she was right.
With Mama gone, that just left Papa and me, Aquila Jane MacKinnon, here at Devils Rock Lighthouse. I'd been born here twelve years before, April 18, 1846, and had never been anywhere else. If Mama hadn't taught me differently, I might have thought Devils Rock was the sum total of the world.
Devils Rock isn't an easy place to live. There's nothing here but birds and seals and the never-ending wind. Even though it's only five miles off the coast of Maine, fierce storms can cut us off from the mainland for weeks at a time. Sometimes we don't see another living soul for months on end, but at least when Mama was alive, she was always smiling and singing and it seemed we didn't need anyone else, we had each other.
We share the island with ghosts, too. Mr. Sinclair, the last lighthouse keeper, drowned rowing between here and the mainland, and Mr. Blair's wife went mad from the loneliness and flung herself off the cliffs. I've seen her shadowy figure moving over the rocks andheard her voice wailing above the wind. Before, I didn't understand how loneliness could drive someone crazy, but I was beginning to. Mama had only been gone a few hours and already I could feel the loneliness settling in for a long stay.
"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," Papa whispered after Mama drew her last breath, but I was so mad at God I could spit. Seems he'd done a lot more taking away than he'd given. I was angry at Papa, too, though I couldn't tell him because he was already broken. I blamed him for Mama's death.
When Mama took sick, I'd begged him to take her to a doctor.
"Quila, you know I cannot leave the light un-attended. Besides, your mother's strong. She'll be all right." When it became clear she wasn't going to get better, he would have rowed to the moon to get help, but it was too late.
The storm hit by evening and battered us for three days, howling and shrieking like a thousand banshees. I think Papa was glad for the storm, for he was so busy keeping the light burning that he had less time to think about Mama, but for me the storm was pure torment. I was trapped inside with all the memories of Mama pressing in so close I thought I'd suffocate: memories of Mama knitting by the fire, Mama coming in from a winter walk all rosy-cheeked and her blue eyes laughing, Mama singing me to sleep. Whenever I opened a book, the words came to me with Mama's voice attached, her stories of mermaids and pirates and kingdoms under the sea, and so reading brought no comfort. Neither did food. I baked bread, but when I pulled it from the oven, the warm, yeasty smell that had always been one of my favorites so reminded me of Mama that I threw it outside. At least the gulls would enjoy it.
Except for the wind, it was the quiet that near drove me mad. Always before, Mama had told stories, and if she wasn't telling stories, she was singing, and if she wasn't singing, Papa got out his fiddle and played "Blackbird," "Devil in the Kitchen," and "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" while Mama and I danced till we were breathless. Papa could make his fiddle moan like the wind as it snarled and prowled round the lighthouse tower, and I could never tell if he was answering the wind or if it was answering him. Even the seals came up on the rocks to listen, their dark bodies silvery in the moonlight.
Papa had never been one to say much--Mama said he let his fiddle speak for him--but when she died, Papa put his fiddle away and it was as if he'd lost his voice. Throughout the days of that storm, I never heard him utter a word. Me, I wanted to howl along with the storm.
When the storm finally blew itself out, I fled the silence of the lighthouse and ran to the cliffs.
Seabirds screamed and circled below me, thousands of them, jostling for nesting sites on the ledges. Soon there'd be thousands of eggs, and Papa and I would have eggs for breakfast, dinner, and supper. Mama and I'd always loved spring, when the sun was bright again, the birds came back to nest, and the wild geese flew north. Their haunting cries tugged at me and made me want to fly with them.
If Mama were here, she and I would have been combing the beach area for shells or brightly colored sea glass ("gifts from the sea," Mama called them) or searching along the cliff edges for all the tiny wildflowers, but I didn't have the heart to hunt for them myself. It just seemed another reminder that she was gone forever.
Out of habit, I scanned the horizon. I was good at spotting things, had "eagle eyes," Mama had said. That's what my name means, eagle. Papa had taught me how to read the water, how to tell where there were rocks just under the surface, for there were many such rocks surrounding Devils Rock, all of them dangerous, all of them waiting to bring ships to their doom. Papa had also taught me how to look for whale spouts, far out to sea, or rafts of seabirds, which indicated a school of fish. By the time I was two, I was announcing ships before Papa and Mama could see them. But on this day, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. It was as if the storm had scrubbed the sea clean.
It wasn't until I dropped my eyes that I saw something, something dark in the white froth of the waves. At first, I thought it was a seal, but when I saw a door float by, I knew a ship must have gone down in the storm.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


Excerpted from Gifts from the Sea by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock Copyright © 2003 by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock is the author of many wonderful books for young readers.

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Gifts from the Sea 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
truly enjoyable read. bought it for my neice but i have read it three times myself. really like this author for kids.