Author: Lydia Millet
Publication: Big Mouth House (May 17, 2011)
Description: Cara's mother has disappeared. Her father isn't talking about it. Her big brother Max is hiding behind his iPod, and her genius little brother Jackson is busy studying the creatures he collects from the beach. But when a watery specter begins to haunt the family's Cape Cod home, Cara and her brothers realize that their scientist mother may not be who they thought she was—and that the world has much stranger, much older inhabitants than they had imagined.
With help from Cara's best friend Hayley, the three embark on a quest that will lead them from the Cape's hidden, ancient places to a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. They're soon on the front lines of an ancient battle between good and evil, with the terrifying "pouring man" close on their heels.
Packed with memorable characters and thrilling imagery, Lydia Millet weaves a page-turning adventure even as she brings the seaside world of Cape Cod to magical life. The first in a series of books about the Sykes children, The Fires Beneath the Sea is a rip-cracking middle-grade novel that will make perfect beach reading—for readers of any age!
My Thoughts: This was an entertaining and mildly scary middle grade fantasy. Cara and her brothers Max and Jax are all missing their mother, a scientist, who has gone away. No seems to know, or at least no one is telling them, where she has gone. They are all dealing with her absence in their own ways. Max is hanging out with friends and burying himself in his music. Jax is attending science camp. Cara is spending time with her friend Hayley and wondering what happened to her mom. Their dad has also withdrawn but does sometimes try for some of their normal family activities like movie nights.
But soon things start getting spooky. Cara and Jax see a creepy man who looks like he has water running off him. They call him the Pouring Man. He brings a sense of menace whenever he appears. Jax is very bright and also telepathic. When Cara finds a clue that says to talk to the leatherback, Jax communicates with this old rescued sea turtle. The kids have to face a number of danger on their quest to find out what happened to their mother.
The character set reminds me of A Wrinkle in Time with Cara as the main character, a normal older brother, and a special younger brother. That was also a quest to find a missing parent. This one is the beginning of a series, though, and doesn't have as a clear a resolution. At the conclusion of this one, the battle that their mother has gone away to fight still rages and the children have all been enlisted to help with the fight.
This was a good story for middle graders. I think they would like the characters and the adventures in the story.
She wasn't certain what he meant, but nodded anyway. If you stopped Jax every time you weren't quite sure what he was talking about, you'd never finish a conversation.