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Gifts from the Sea

Gifts from the Sea

4.3 12
by Natalie Kinsey, Judy Pederson (Illustrator)

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Quila MacFarlane is devastated by the death of her mother, especially now that it’s just her and her father on Devils Rock where her father is the lighthouse keeper. They can’t leave and almost no one ever comes to visit them. But the morning after a storm, something floats ashore that changes their lives forever: Two small mattresses strapped together


Quila MacFarlane is devastated by the death of her mother, especially now that it’s just her and her father on Devils Rock where her father is the lighthouse keeper. They can’t leave and almost no one ever comes to visit them. But the morning after a storm, something floats ashore that changes their lives forever: Two small mattresses strapped together, and inside, a baby! They name her Cecelia, which means “a gift from the sea,” and call her Celia. She makes them a family again–and helps heal the hurt left by Quila’s mother’s passing. Two years later, though, another stranger arrives, one who changes everything all over again: A woman named Margaret, come looking for the final resting place of her sister, whose ship had gone down in a storm two years before. Her sister’s baby had never been found, either, she explains, and now she has no family of her own. Could this be Celia’s aunt? Will Quila have to give up Celia so Margaret can have her own family back? This is a gripping tale full of love, loss, and healing. Natalie Kinsey-Warnock is the author of many wonderful books for young readers.

From the Hardcover Library Binding edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Gifts from the Sea:
“This is a compelling novel, with small suspenseful moments to draw readers in, and a brave and thoughtful heroine.”—School Library Journal

“This tale with a strong girl protagonist and a happy ending will appeal to historical-fiction fans.”—Booklist

Children's Literature
This book, set in the time of Abraham Lincoln, is based on a true story. Quila MacKinnon is a lonely girl that has just lost her mother to disease, and lives alone with her father in a lighthouse on Devil's Rock. It takes the arrival of a surprise bundle on the shores of the lighthouse to lighten the book's heavy beginning. Baby Celia washes up to the lighthouse, carefully tied to a mattress after her parent's ship goes down in a storm. Twelve-year-old Quila is forced to heal from her mother's death and take care of Celia. At first the baby's arrival brings happiness to the lighthouse, but soon the mood darkens again when Quila discovers how hard it is to take care of a baby. The pace of the story picks up in the middle of the book when another visitor comes to the shores of Devil's Rock, a woman who has special ties to Celia. Miss Malone brings life back to the lighthouse, but she also brings trouble for Quila and her father. The conflict will grip readers though to the satisfying conclusion of the story. 2003, Dell Yearling, Ages 8 to 12.
—Erin Teagan

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 7.65(h) x 0.29(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

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 and heard 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.

Meet the Author

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

From the Hardcover edition.

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Gifts from the Sea 0 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is sad and exhilerating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is just a delightful little book. I'm glad I found it on the Nook. It is for any age group.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book i have ever read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book i have read before i got the nook ehen i was in third and now im in the middle of fith and i still love this book READ THIS NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;) :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Taylor Lemay More than 1 year ago
At first i thought this book was boring but then i read more and more and i love it. It is definetely on my favorites shelf. It is totally worth buying.
Daisy Brackett More than 1 year ago
when a young girls mom dies her life gets turned upside down. angry seas brings something very supprizing as role in life chages to an older sis, and when the oppirtuniry approches will she decline or take find out in gifts from the sea s
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about a girl who lives in a lighthouse, her mom just died. The has never been to land before, but something comes by and helps he get though her mothers death.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i think this is an outstanding book it only took me a couple of days to read because i couldn't put the book down. i would be so supprised if it didn't get a 5/5 the detail was great and so was every thing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is very emotinial. i recemend it to any age readers and think that they will love it too. (i hope)
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is the best i think that people can relate to it. it was SAD/ HAPPY/ FUNNY all mixed. I definetly recamend this to any age readers.