cover image When Sea Becomes Sky

When Sea Becomes Sky

Gillian McDunn. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5476-1085-3

An uneasy vibe permeates this expansive mystery starring two closely bonded siblings. Contentious 11-year-old aspiring writer Bex and her quiet, easygoing nine-year-old brother Davey, who cue as white, live on Pelican Island off the Carolina coast, and spend freewheeling days in their favorite marsh spot. When a pervasive drought lowers the water level, and Bex notices a human-size metal statue embedded in the mud, she believes that the find could detour the building of a planned bridge to the island, which is currently only accessible by ferry. The bridge promises to bring more tourists to the remote island, improving the local economy, but it’s also likely to alter the ecosystem and threaten the kids’ father’s job as ferry captain. Davey tends not to speak around others, but he chats regularly with Bex as they work to solve the art mystery. Bex, meanwhile, studiously avoids “used-to-be friend” Millie Ochoa-Chen, who’s Taiwanese and Mexican American. Positing that “writers must tell the truth thoroughly, constantly, and recklessly,” McDunn (Honestly Elliott) uses the island’s drought to imbue the story with an anxious feeling as Bex strives to prolong the waning summer. An author’s note details the book’s personal origins. Ages 8–11. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (Feb.)