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The Fires Beneath the Sea

Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011

Selected for the ABC Best Books for Children Catalog

Cara’s mother has disappeared. Her father isn’t talking about it. Her big brother Max is hiding behind his iPod, and her genius little brother Jackson is busy studying the creatures he collects from the beach. But when a watery specter begins to haunt the family’s Cape Cod home, Cara and her brothers realize that their scientist mother may not be who they thought she was—and that the world has much stranger, much older inhabitants than they had imagined.

With help from Cara’s best friend Hayley, the three embark on a quest that will lead them from the Cape’s hidden, ancient places to a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. They’re soon on the front lines of an ancient battle between good and evil, with the terrifying “pouring man” close on their heels.

Packed with memorable characters and thrilling imagery, Lydia Millet weaves a page-turning adventure even as she brings the seaside world of Cape Cod to magical life. The first in a series of books about the Sykes children, The Fires Beneath the Sea is a rip-cracking middle-grade novel that will make perfect beach reading—for readers of any age!

* “Millet’s prose is lyrically evocative (“the rhythmic scoop and splash of their paddles”). A lush and intelligent opener for a topical eco-fantasy series.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In her first novel for children, Millet introduces readers to 13-year-old Cara; her brilliant 10-year-old brother, Jackson; her popular 16-year-old brother, Max; and her history professor father, who live on Cape Cod. Her mother, a well-known marine biologist, disappeared a few months earlier. The family is grieving yet still hopeful for her return. While swimming in the ocean, Cara meets a sea otter that mysteriously communicates with her, giving her the following message: “Take care of them for me.” Cara is both frightened and thrilled as she is sure this animal is somehow linked to her mother. In subsequent chapters, there is an increase in odd happenings and terrifying encounters with the Pouring Man, a deadly creature that takes different forms, including becoming the children’s doubles to gain entry into their house, and is seemingly intent on destroying Cara’s family. An intriguing mix of everyday activities and the otherworldly, The Fires Beneath the Sea pulls readers in. Cara is a likable character who has been put in the uncomfortable position of trying to save her family and help her mother with a mission way beyond the ability of most tweens. Her bravery and fierce love will cause readers to long for her to succeed. A well-done beginning, with some riveting moments and frightening escapes, to what should prove to be a popular series.”
School Library Journal

“A thoughtful and thought-provoking beginning to a new fantasy series. The Cape Cod woods, wildlife, and beaches are depicted with loving detail, and the dark forces arrayed against the young protagonists are at once tantalizingly mystifying and alarmingly timely.”
—Patricia McKillip

“Lydia Millet knows the sea like a selkie. The Fires Beneath the Sea smells of salt and tastes of mist, and that beauty speaks as strongly as its story of peril and hope for the future of our fragile world.”
—Kathe Koja, author of Talk

About the Author

Lydia Millet is the author of six previous novels, including My Happy Life, which won the 2003 PEN-USA Award for Fiction, and Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, which was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Her short story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

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