Ocean Within

Ocean Within

5.0 10
by V. M. Caldwell, Erica Magnus
     
 

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Many children at some point wonder whether they are adopted. In The Ocean Within, Elizabeth knows she is adopted and feels she cannot trust the welcome offered by her new family, the Sheridans. As she and her new siblings and cousins head to the beach for a vacation at Grandma's house, Elizabeth is secretly thrilled at the chance to finally see the ocean. On the

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Overview

Many children at some point wonder whether they are adopted. In The Ocean Within, Elizabeth knows she is adopted and feels she cannot trust the welcome offered by her new family, the Sheridans. As she and her new siblings and cousins head to the beach for a vacation at Grandma's house, Elizabeth is secretly thrilled at the chance to finally see the ocean. On the other hand, she feels the Sheridans are just too much - too prone to hugging, too loud, too enthusiastic. And there are so many of them!
Beautifully re-creating the dynamics of a large family and revealing the heart of a young girl, The Ocean Within tracks the storm brewing within the usually sunny Sheridan summer home, as Elizabeth and the matriarch she calls the "Iron Woman" test wills - one resisting with all her strength the love and structure offered by the other.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Caldwell's first novel, told from the perspective of 11-year-old Elizabeth Lawson, offers an insightful yet somewhat limited view of a reticent foster child. Recently adopted, Elizabeth is overwhelmed when she, her three new siblings and a mass of Sheridan cousins gather for an annual month-long visit at Grandmother Sheridan's house by the sea. Elizabeth feels like an outsider and, though quietly cooperative during the reunion, she refuses to participate in family rituals and games. Her favorite times are spent by herself at the ocean, perched on a rock while the others swim and play on the beach. Most of the Sheridans are frustrated by Elizabeth's seeming indifference, but perceptive, firm Grandmother (whom Elizabeth secretly calls "Iron Woman") and youngest cousin Petey never give up trying to draw her out of her shell. At first, readers may, like Elizabeth, find it difficult to differentiate individual personalities from among the crowd of happy, bubbly Sheridan children; but as the story progresses, the characters' distinguishing traits become visible. Still, the occasionally overwritten narrative (e.g., when Elizabeth offers to help Petey with his homework, "Hope warred against disbelief in his eyes. Hope won, and he nodded") leaves many questions unanswered concerning the protagonist herself. Little information is given about her past, nor is much evidence offered as to why her new parents are so eager to adopt her. Yet her discomfort and yearning to belong somewhere will be strongly felt. If Elizabeth's motivations and history are muddy, her emotions are crystal clear. Ages 8-13. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Janet L. Rose
Elizabeth has gone from one foster home to another. She believes the Sheridans will be no different. She only agrees to go with them when she learns all the cousins spend a month with their grandmother on the beach. The Sheridans are noisy and lively. Elizabeth is silent and uncommunicative. There is no reason to open up and say her true feelings. These people are not important. She hates the grandmother and avoids her. She follows the rules and tries to be invisible. Although afraid of the water, Elizabeth sits day after day mesmerized by the ocean waves. There is no escape. The ceaseless pounding of the waves within her are as turbulent and overwhelming as the waves in the ocean, but the family is way too friendly to allow her to stay an outsider. The story moves quickly and over time she realizes they do care and she cares about them.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Gr 6-9-An insightful story filled with all of the mundane details that make a novel rich and real. Elizabeth and the Sheridan children are on a holiday visit with "Grandma." While the others are noisy, Elizabeth is silent. When the others trade stories of previous years, she has no such memories. As the novel progresses, readers learn that she is a foster child, that her parents died when she was five, and that she has endured six years in the foster-care system. The girl withdraws from each display of affection and refuses to join in family activities; she hides whenever she can, refusing to talk unless forced. But she watches carefully. Each event, each family crisis, is appraised by this bright and thoughtful child. It's Petey, the four-year-old, who calls her "Turtle" because she has a hard shell, who finally cracks that shell and touches the real Elizabeth. It will take a mature reader to understand Elizabeth's reticence in joining this happy family and to follow the almost stream-of-consciousness narration. The author's agenda shows occasionally, but the emotions and actions always ring true.-Karen K. Radtke, Milwaukee Public Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A finely crafted first novel that looks at family and new opportunities from the perspective of a foster child. Elizabeth, 11, is completely shut down from years of foster care. She has trained herself well: she barely speaks and allows herself no pleasures. She views her adoption by Kevin and Karen Sheridan as just another temporary situation, to be endured without getting emotionally entangled. The summer opens as she goes with the Sheridan children and their cousins—nine in all—to spend the season at Grandma Sheridan's beach house. The Sheridans are a raucous and deeply affectionate family, and Elizabeth is overwhelmed by their noise and their joy. Elizabeth's passion is the ocean, which she has dreamed of seeing; too afraid to actually let the water touch her, she watches the ocean for hours while the others swim and play. It is four-year-old Petey who begins to reach Elizabeth; too young to be deceived, he recognizes both her loneliness and her fear. Allowing the Sheridans to be both loving and human, Caldwell is careful not to overplay Elizabeth's walls, and her pain, which is almost suffocating; absorbed young readers will find they are holding their breath at the end. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-13)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781571316240
Publisher:
Milkweed Editions
Publication date:
09/01/1999
Series:
Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature Series
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
236
Sales rank:
943,408
Product dimensions:
5.23(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.87(d)
Lexile:
500L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 13 Years

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