The Graveyard Book meets Hatchet in this eerie novel about a boy who is stranded on a mysterious beach, from debut author Samantha M. Clark.
A ten-year-old boy washes up on a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited beach. Who is he? How did he get there? The boy can’t remember. When he sees a light shining over the foreboding wall of trees that surrounds the shore, he decides to follow it, in the hopes that it will lead him to answers. The boy’s journey is a struggle for survival and a search for the truth—a terrifying truth that once uncovered, will force him to face his greatest fear of all if he is to go home.
This gripping adventure will have readers hooked until its jaw-dropping and moving conclusion. Samantha M. Clark’s first novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Samantha M. Clark has always loved stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. After all, if four ordinary siblings can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? While she looks for her real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. In a past life, Samantha was a photojournalist and managing editor for newspapers and magazines. She has lived in a land of rainforests, the land of the Queen, two Caribbean islands, and now lives with her husband and crazy dog in Austin, Texas (the land of the weird). Samantha is the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Visit her online at SamanthaMClark.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast
HIS JAW WAS THE FIRST thing to move, back and forth like a seesaw. His teeth rubbed against one another, pushing out the grit between them.
“Unhhh!” The boy’s mouth crinkled.
He tried to open his eyes, but light slapped them shut again.
He felt cold, his back damp. He curled his fingers and was surprised they obeyed. He wriggled his toes, and they wriggled back. He lifted his arms, then felt around his body. Two legs, chest, head, and nose.
Just as it should be.
He pushed up on his elbow, and a sickening feeling erupted in his stomach. Leaning over, he retched, but nothing came.
I don’t feel good. The thought slopped out of his murky mind.
The boy reached down to steady himself and a streak of pain ran up his arm. “Ow.” He pulled it back, glaring at it through squinting eyes. There was no sign of injury. No cuts, or bruises, or scrapes. He pressed down again, but the pain bit back, clamping into his muscle.
“Ow!” His arm must be hurt on the inside, but how? Better not press on it anymore.
His head was sore too—a throbbing pain on one side. His fingers searched for the reason but found only curls of hair.
Struggling to his knees, the boy cautiously pried his eyes fully open, spying on his surroundings through gaps between his fingers.
He was on a beach of golden sand stretched out against the edge of a never-ending blue ocean. Curious waves crept up to him, then retreated, returning seconds later. The beach was cut off to his right by trees so large they hung over the water. Those trees fed into bushes behind him, then more trees and more bushes—a green wall, so thick he couldn’t see through it, carving around the sand as it ran alongside the ocean into the distance to the boy’s left.
That was it. That was all he could see.
The boy dropped his hands, the brightness no longer stabbing his eyes.
Where am I?
The question echoed in his brain and was joined by another.
How did I get here?
He gazed down at his body. He was wearing navy-blue swim shorts and a yellow T-shirt with a pattern on it. Nothing else. Not even shoes. He pulled at the bottom of the shirt so it stretched out before him. Even upside down, he could read the words: IN REAL LIFE I’M A PIRATE. The word “pirate” was curved around a picture of a skull and crossbones.
Skull and crossbones?
The biggest question of all screamed in his mind.
Who am I?
The boy staggered to stand. He was wobbly but stayed upright.
Had he just been born? No, he wouldn’t be wearing shorts and a T-shirt if he had just been born. He wouldn’t even know what shorts and a T-shirt were, or the beach, or trees, or the ocean.
He glanced at the emptiness around him. No ships or boats. Just rolling, white-tipped waves. The sand was clear too. No footsteps showing a path he had walked.
“Hello?” The boy flinched at the sound of his own voice. It was high and croaky, like a tiny frog. He coughed and pinpricks of sand scratched his throat. He stuck his fingers into his mouth and tried to fish them out, but they found nothing. His tongue was no help either.
“Hello?” he called, a bit louder than before. This time his voice was high, but singed with a rasp, like the words had been grated over the sand.
Still no answer came. The water’s edge crept toward him, then backed away. The leaves in the trees purred in the slight breeze.
The boy’s jaw tightened. He couldn’t be alone. Not completely alone. There must be someone near, someone who could hear him.
He dug his feet into the sand, bent his legs as a brace, then gathered his voice from deep within himself.
An explosion came from the depths of the trees. A roar drove over him as every leaf and branch erupted. Riding atop the sound were the high-pitched squawks of thousands of birds, upset that their quiet had been disturbed. They rose up from the tops of the trees, so many that they changed the color of the sky. Circling above him, squawking in frightened, angry bursts.
The boy raised his arms to shield his head. Fear sparked in his belly.
The birds flapped their wings harder. Bones creaked as they stretched with every beat. Their feathers stiffened to sharp, clanging points. The beaks lengthened too, gnashing with loud clack, clack, clacks. The noise grew deafening as the distended birds blocked out the sun.
The boy ran.
But there was nowhere to hide.
He scrambled across the sand away from the birds. But the ground trembled before him. Black spikes of rock shot up in his path, threatening to spear the boy.
Gasping, he turned back, but the birds still swarmed the sky above. The boy ran to the Green Wall. Dark, spooky, but maybe a place to hide. But when he got close, branches twisted and curled, creaking toward him. A loud HIIIIIISSSSSSSSS escaped through the leaves.
The boy cried out, then ran back and back as fast as his feet would take him. He ran until he splashed into the searching fingers of the incoming tide. The water had seemed calm before, but now greedy waves tugged at his ankles.
They wanted him to go in.
They wanted to take him down.
They wanted to drag him beneath
the surface. . . .
The boy fled to the center of the beach, the place where he’d been born. He curled up as small as he could and shut his eyes tight. Everything had turned scary. Everything had turned bad. How was that possible?
“Once upon a time . . . ,” he murmured. “Once upon a time, there was a boy who was hidden.”
He waited for the birds or rocks or trees or water to attack. He waited to be hurt.
But nothing happened. After a while his heart slowed and the roar around him began to hush. The boy cracked one eye open. The birds had shrunk back to their normal size and jetted away behind the Green Wall. The trees swayed quietly in the breeze, their branches pointing to the sky. The sand stretched out along the coast, a pale ribbon that looked as soft as cream. And the ocean waves danced all the way to the horizon.
Quiet fell once again.
The boy’s arms slid shaking to his sides.
He didn’t know who he was or where he was, but he knew he wasn’t safe on this beach.
And he had nowhere to go.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
With hints of dark shadows, dangerous secrets, adventure and hope, this is a beautiful tale which places a boy against his deepest fears. A boy is born on the beach. Probably not born but finding himself there with no memory of anything else is as if he was embarking on the world for his first time. All he knows are the fears surrounding him—in the forest and in the water. Only on the beach is he safe...and not even there. When a mysterious light flashes a few times and disappears, he grabs at the hope that his true life and parents exist and simply need to be found. And so his journey begins. This isn't a normal tale, which becomes clear when reading the first page. The writing opens up to a very mysterious and artistically described world. Nothing is clear, allowing the boy's confusion to seep through while joining his longing to figure out who he is and where he belongs. It touches the heart and draws in, allowing the reader to completely sink into the boy's fears, hopes, dreams and determination. The writer has excellent control of the middle grade voice. Each sentence fits perfectly to the boy, how he thinks and how he views things. There's a haunting hint of fantasy while reality glides just outside of the attainable distance. The battles the boy faces are vivid and his fears completely understandable. He does the best he can with the knowledge he has, making his thoughts a logical pole even in the chaos. It's a lovely mixture which keeps the tension high as he makes his way across the island and faces monsters which are worth being afraid of. The end wraps the story up nicely and brings the necessary sense into the entire book. It's at the end when the boy's journey, his fears and his battles truly are understandable and gain a somewhat logical footing. It's an emotional moment, where the artistic side of the rest of the book meets a well grounded point. This is a wonderfully written book which takes a deep look into fears and describes a touching journey as a boy learns to face them. It is, however, a story which follows a more dreamy direction where the basic foundation itself is the mystery. While the book is a literary gem, I'm not sure many middle grade readers will enjoy it. But when the right ones get their hands on this book, they are in for a real treat. I received a complimentary copy and enjoyed enough to want to leave my honest thoughts.
This is book is so heartfelt, so immediate that readers can’t help but get drawn into the tale of the boy who wakes up on a beach not knowing who he is or where he came from. Though we don’t know his name – yet – we feel his pain and grief and anxiety as he tries to piece together his past and faces the sometimes terrifying challenges of the present. And hanging over everything is the mystery of what it all means, where his parents are, and why he can’t remember. This book is perfect for fans of The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari – both are workouts for the heart.
When I finished reading this middle school book, I immediately thought of The Wizard of Oz as it had that fantasy, dreamworld aspect to it. This book has this mysterious element to it as a boy wakes up on a mysterious island and he tries to make sense of who he is, where he is and what he should do next. As I read the novel, the pieces started to come together but then more difficult and deeper questions plagued my mind about this boy and his troubles. The novel begins was a boy waking up on a beach. On one side of him, there is a green wall consisting of trees and bushes and on the other, waves are crashing onto the beach. Wearing only a T-shirt, with which he doesn’t remember owning, and swim trunks, the boy is disoriented and confused. The boy has a constant fear of something in the water and inside the green wall, that he claims are out to get him so, he tries to stay clear of those areas. Images materialize before his eyes and whether they are real or not, that is up to the reader to decide, but to the boy, for that moment they are real. The boy hears voices and he struggles to accept what they tell him. He needs to find a way off the beach and find his way home, only which way is that going to be. This was a mystery from the beginning and as the boy becomes familiar with his surroundings, his world becomes more confusing. I found that as I read this novel, I had more questions that needed to be answered but by the end of the novel, my questions had been answered. It was an entertaining read and I really enjoyed the ending.