Young readers will be enchanted by this wonderfully strange story, featuring two orphans on a madcap adventure, an old seaside hotel with mysterious secrets, and a creepy fish-human hybrid monster lurking in the shadows. Author Thomas Taylor was kind enough to share five of his favorite middle grade stories that take place near (or beneath) the sea.
I’ve always lived close to the sea—in England, Wales and France—but it was only when I moved to live permanently in a twisty old seaside town on England’s south coast, that I finally discovered the secret that inspired me to write Malamander. You see, seaside towns have a hidden life, one that you won’t know if you only visit in the summer, when the weather’s good and the ice cream stalls are open. A secret life of mists and shadows, of boarded up summer attractions, of local legends, and of strange things washed up on the beach.
I didn’t plan on writing Malamander. The book grew out of hours of walking on the beach in all weathers, wondering about the things I beachcombed, the odd people I met, and the tales that seemed to attach to every headland, sand bar or lighthouse. Before long, as I walked on that winter beach, I was joined by a cast of characters, by the sense of a fictional town only a little eerier than my own, and by a fantastical story of a bright girl in search of her parents, and a sparky boy who is determined to help her. And behind it all, lurking in the mists, I swear I almost saw the malamander for myself…
And just to prove that some of the best stories are inspired by the sea, here are five brilliant Middle Grade adventures set on, under, or beside the sea:
The Shiver Stone, by Sharon Tregenza
A touching story of contemporary mystery set on the myth-rich Pembrokeshire coast. Carys and Jago must grapple with secrets and tensions in their own families as they race to prevent a bitter act of vengeance. Filled with summer warmth and holiday friendship and the long shadows of Welsh folklore, Shiver Stone is a delight to read.
Five on a Treasure Island, by Enid Blyton
Though of course dated—this was first published in 1942—Five on Treasure Island remains a timeless evocation of summer holidays on the English coast. With an island and a shipwreck to explore, and lost treasure to find, Julian, Dick, Anne and their cousin George — with help from Timmy the dog — have plenty to do. And all with sand between their toes and sea spray in their hair.
Our Castle by the Sea, by Lucy Strange
Who can resist a story set in a clifftop lighthouse? Especially one that is a castle to Pet (short for Petra) and her Anglo-German family during the Second World War. Ancient legends, wartime espionage and family drama combine in this beautifully written and evocative tale, set on the English coast.
The Storm Keeper’s Island, by Catherine Doyle
Fionn must face his fears, and his own magical legacy, in this entrancing tale of enchantment and belonging. Set on the Irish island of Arranmore, The Storm Keeper’s Island brings ancient Irish folklore to vivid life from the moment Fionn and his sister Tara step off the ferry.
Race to the Bottom of the Sea, by Lindsay Eager
With seaside adventures, it’s only a matter of time before a pirate shows up. When the infamous Merrick the Monstrous captures 11-year-old Fidelia Quail, and forces her too use all her science and seafaring skills to find his treasure, it soon appears that something other than a lust for gold is a play, in this fabulous swashbuckling adventure.
Malamander is on B&N bookshelves now.