Last night I finished reading Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.
I borrowed it from my library, and that's the exact cover art that was on it.
While I enjoyed this book, which is a part of The Dark is Rising sequence, I have to say that I enjoyed The Dark is Rising a bit more. A good friend of mine says it's because there was a gap in between the two books, during which Ms. Cooper found her true voice. I'd have to agree. Although Over Sea, Under Stone was good, it wasn't GREAT in the way that The Dark is Rising was. And I'm told that book four (The Grey King, which won the Newbery) will blow me away. As I'm reading Greenwitch next (which was once recommended to me by none other than Linda Sue Park at a conference, I'll have to wait. Ooh, the anticipation. But I digress.
In Over Sea, Under Stone, a family with three children head to Cornwall for a four-week visit with Great-Uncle Merry, sometimes called Gumerry by the kids. They stay in the seaside village of Trewissick in an old house, where the kids hunt about and find a treasure map of sorts. Smart as they are, they quickly figure out that someone else is looking for their map, and they choose to confide in their Great-Uncle, who turns out to be more than he appears. In fact, he is the one character from this book that appears in the second book in relatively the same for: Merriman Lyon, fighter of the Dark.
Barney, Simon and Jane prove to be clever and brave and true. Their actions and their intuitions remind children to trust their own "spider-senses," too. It's one of those books where you can bet that if the kids are suspicious about someone, they're correct. In today's world, I think that's a valuable thing for kids to know -- that not all strangers or even people that your parents think are okay are actually, well, okay. Not sure that was an intended life lesson in the book, but it's there nonetheless.
This book includes one of my favorite landscape/settings -- the tide that goes out so far that you can walk someplace you usually can't get to, but you might get trapped doing it when the tide comes rush-rushing back in. I read at least two books with that same sort of device years ago, and I love the idea -- it sounds so wild, and yet is so readily summoned to the mind's eye.
This is a nice adventure/quest story, only without some of the larger issues raised in The Dark is Rising, although as Paul Simon might say, there are "hints and allegations." I'm glad I read it, and would recommend it. I do think, however, that I'm happier for having read The Dark is Rising first, then going back to this one, since it's more in the nature of a bit of backstory on Merriam Lyon. But the payoff info you get about Mr. Lyon at the end is so worth knowing going forward. Or so I'm thinking.
I'm still baffled as to why I didn't know about these books when I was a teen. Fortunately, my inner twelve-year old is alive and well and making most of my reading choices these days, proving that it's never too late to discover a great book (or series).