Strong Like the Sea Summary
Twelve-year-old Alexis has spent her entire life in Hawaii. She loves exploring her island paradise, but she’s afraid of the ocean, especially the varied creatures who make it their home. She still remembers the day a viper moray eel, looking like a monster, scared the daylights out of her when it popped out of a coral reef. When she tried to swim away, she got caught in a riptide until her dad rescued her. Now, even while her friends are surfing and swimming in the ocean, Alex watches from the beach.
Alex’s mom works in counterintelligence and frequently travels for work. She always leaves codes, ciphers, and puzzles behind for Alex to solve, with a “treasure” at the end. It’s a brilliant game they play together, and Alex loves figuring out her mom’s puzzles—especially the tricky ones—but when an emergency at sea puts her mom in possible danger, solving the next one suddenly feels far more urgent.
Alex’s friends step in to help as Alex races to decipher each clue before time runs out, but when the trail leads to grumpy old Uncle, his enormous dog Sarge, and a sea turtle unlike any other, the challenge changes into something bigger than any before. With storms on the horizon and lives on the line, Alex must face her fears to solve Mom’s challenge and save those she loves. With her ohana to help, she must be strong like the sea.
Strong Like the Sea Review
Wendy Swore writes great middle-grade novels. She seems to have a great handle on the things important to the “tween” years: self-image, family, friends, fears. Strong Like the Sea contains all these elements. And it’s set in the coolest of locations—Hawaii.
We learn right from the start how important Alexis’s family is to her. Because her mother travels for work, puzzles and treasure hunts help build a special bond between them, and we get to tag along on Alexis’s latest adventure.
We get to know Alex gradually, just as we would a new real-life friend. Bit by bit, we learn about her fear of the water (though the reasons behind it take longer to discern). We get to meet her best friends, understand her challenges and conflicts with her dad and mom. And we also learn, that like most of us, she has fears and worries—and some anxiety about life. Being a twelve-year-old is hard—even in the paradise of Hawaii.
Ms. Swore is a master of description. Not only can you “see” her characters as you read, but she paints word pictures that bring both the characters and their surroundings to life. If you aren’t dreaming of a trip to Hawaii before reading this book, you will be by the end.
And, bonus, your young readers will likely want to try creating their own codes and treasure hunts after this too. (Rumor has it you’ll find a secret ocean code and hidden message in this book).
The book is well-paced, moving along steadily without rushing or dragging.
Strong Like the Sea is a perfect summer read for both young readers and families.
About Wendy S. Swore
Wendy S. Swore and her family are farmers. She writes part-time, particularly in winter when her farming chores give her time to plant seeds in her imagination. Her debut novel, A Monster Like Me, was the 2019 Gold Winner for Juvenile Fiction from Foreword Reviews. She is a member of SCBWI.
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