Review of Secrets We Tell the Sea

Secrets We Tell the Sea Secrets We Tell the Sea
by Martha Riva Palacio Obón; trans. from Spanish by Lourdes Heuer
Intermediate, Middle School    Bloomsbury    144 pp.
10/23    9781547608164    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781547608171    $12.59

Courageous and resilient ten-year-old Sofía is taken to live with her grandmother in Bahía, by the sea. Over the ensuing weeks and months, she struggles to make sense of why her mother chose her creepy and potentially abusive boyfriend over her. Sofía does have a special connection with the sea, however, and is eager to spend time experiencing its sights, sounds, and smells, as she sees herself as a mermaid. In truth, Sofía uses her imagination to make sense of confusing relationships with people around her and to cope with loss. This sensitive and compelling story creates a mystical world in which a young girl who feels alone eventually finds peace by paying attention to her feelings and discovering a way to communicate them. Several topics related to trauma are explored, including domestic abuse, loss, and anxiety (reflected in the protagonist thinking she has crabs of different colors in her stomach that convey different feelings). Palacio Obón uses a vivid and fast-paced narrative to make Sofía’s experiences realistic and relatable to readers, while highlighting important cultural connections to the powerful role of the sea in many Latin cultures.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholas A. Brown

Honduran-American librarian and arts producer Nicholas A. Brown is acting co-CEO and chief operating officer for communication and outreach at the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, an adjunct faculty in library and information science at The Catholic University of America, a District of Columbia Library Association past president, an ALA Rainbow Round table member, and a former Library of Congress music specialist.

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