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The Sea Chest

By Toni Buzzeo; Illustrated By Mary Grandpre

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A lonely little girl, a lighthouse, an island, a storm, a mysterious stranger--these compelling elements give The Sea Chest the look and feel of a children’s classic that will be loved for generations. Toni Buzzeo tells this story-within-a-story in rich, poetic language, while Mary GrandPre’s lush illustrations draw the reader ever deeper in. Like the best adoption tales, The Sea Chest will appeal to a broad readership of adults as well as children.

On the request of her great-grandniece, Aunt Maita recounts the story of her unusual childhood. She spent her early years on a windswept island as the only child of a lighthouse keeper and his wife. But one day, after a storm sinks a ship offshore, a sea chest washes up on the beach and changes Maita’s life forever. Inside is a baby, the daughter that the ship’s captain and his wife put to sea in a desperate effort to save her.
Maita’s parents take the baby in, adopt her, and raise her as their own, and Maita relishes her role as big sister. As Maita finishes her story, we learn that her great-grandniece is preparing to embrace another mysterious newcomer: The girl’s parents are overseas adopting her sister.

Though the story is based on a legend that almost certainly never happened, the author’s own experience gives it the spirit of truth. Buzzeo was an only child for years until her family took in a foster daughter. She never forgot her foster sister, who was adopted by another family. In The Sea Chest, it seems, Buzzeo heals that old loss through storytelling.

Reviewed by Amy Klatzkin, a contributing editor to Adoptive Families.

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