Escape from Home
Beyond the Western Sea: Book One
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What’s this book about?
In 1851, Maura and Patrick O’Connell, driven from their Irish home by a cruel English landlord, join the landlord’s younger son, Laurence Kirkle, fleeing an abusive family situation, on a journey that takes them to the port of Liverpool on the first step of their quest to reach America.
Story Behind the Story
I had been visiting schools that year, importantly, long before the lengthy Harry Potter books were so popular. I had begun asking students what they were reading. A surprising number of them were telling me they were reading novels by Stephen King. The surprise— (to me and to their teachers)—was that these kids were reading truly long books. Moreover, they were reading them very much on their own. The lesson? If they liked the stories, kids would read long books.
Having already published books that had become popular—for instance, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle—I had become used to the question, “Are you going to do a sequel?” Other books of mine had elicited that same question.
Awards and Recognition
- Best Books for Young Adults, ALA, 1997
- Best Books of the Year, Booklinks, 1996
- Best Books of the Year, Booklist, 1996
- Booklist, 1996, starred review
- Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, 1997, Blue Ribbon
- National Council Social Studies/Children’s Book Council, 1997, Notable
- New York Public Library, Best Books of the Year, 1996
- Children’s choice nominee, Vermont
“[A] … pulsing 1850s emigrant adventure… . packed with action and with a huge cast of villains and heroes… . Great for reading aloud, the vivid scenes and larger-than-life characters also lend themselves to readers’ theater. The comedy is both grotesque and sinister. As in Dickens’ works, coincidence is not just a plot surprise but a revelation that those who appear to be far apart—the powerful and the ‘failures’—are, in fact, intimately connected.” (Booklist)