Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper: A Review

In the early 1900’s Dorothy was swept to Oz where she met a witch, and a Wizard, and wore green glasses. During WWII the Pevensie children were sent to the country to escape the bombing in London. In the late eighties there was A Wrinkle in Time… But wait, someone got left out, didn’t they? Ah yes, readers today have completely forgotten the Drew children. *sigh* No, not Nancy and her brother Nate, these Drew children are much younger than that.

This is a story about Simon, Jane, and Barnabas (Barney) who are on holiday with their parents and their beloved “Gumerry” to a small seaside town known as Trewissick. “Gumerry”, by the way is a nickname the children gave their Great Uncle Merry when they were quite small. Gumerry is a professor, of what we don’t know, we just know he is rather odd, always popping in and out at odd bits. Dad is an angler, and Mum is a painter.

On their first day in Trewissick, it rains. I mean a right downpour. What we round these parts might call a gully-washer, and so the children are housebound. Sooo, what do your kids do when it rains and they can’t go outside (furthermore what do your kids do when it isn’t raining and they can go outside?)? Get on the computer? Get out their handy Nintendo DS or PSP? Read? Watch TV? Probably. But wait this is the late 50’s. Not every house had a TV in every room. Hell, not every house had a TV. And Al Gore  had not invented the Internet yet. Oh and those other three contraptions? Computer, DS, and PSP? Well, let’s just say that their inventors’ parents weren’t even a twinkle in their parent’s eyes. So that leaves 3 very active children in a house filled with books in locked cases… They can’t even read to pass the day, and when was the last time your kid just sat and watched it rain all day? Right. That’s what I thought, so the kids used this thing that used to really be encouraged by everyone, and now…well… Anyway, everyone has one, it’s just a matter of whether or not they put it to good use (NO! You PERV I am NOT talking about a game of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” sheesh!). Their imagination!

The children decide they are trecking through the jungle, and will have a picnic when they have searched the whole house. The housekeeper/cook, Mrs. Palk, gets a nice array of scones, fruit, and thermoses of tea ready for them to take and so begin with the bottom floor. Because the house is rented the children must be careful to leave anything that has obviously been put away alone. Now at this time I feel I should mention that Barney has a bit of an obsession with King Arthur and his Knights. He has often dreamed that he was one of Arthur’s Knights on a quest, so it is only fitting that it is his own apple core that leads the children to their clue, and their quest.

BEHIND the wardrobe in the boys’ room is a door that leads to the attic (that’s right, behind, not inside) where the children explore carefully before setting down to tea, only Barney says he’s hollow just as they get into the attic, so Simon hands him an apple.

Barney munches his fruit as they go and by the time they actually sit to eat, we notice that Barney has long finished his apple, and I for one thought he had made like a Billy-Goat and eaten it core and all, but when older sister Jane insists he wipe his hands before he eats, we discover that Barney has stashed the core in his pocket. Barney flings the cold, slimy, offending core away, only to be harangued into retrieving it via fear of rats by his older siblings. Upon finding his core in a hole in the wall, Barney also finds a bit of rolled-up paper which is taken to be a bit of wallpaper at first. When the children unroll the parchment, they discover that it is a map of something, with writing on it that appears to be Latin, but Simon, the eldest can’t read all of it. Concluding as children will that it is a treasure map, they decide to find the treasure.

With Great Uncle Merry’s help they decipher clue after clue until the Workers of the Dark separate them, and then the children must greatly rely on themselves. Then, just like Merlin in the tales of the Round table, Gumerry shows up to help save the day.

Barney is really the Hero of this tale, but everyone takes equal parts. This is a fantastic tale of a beginning. This is the tornado, this is the first step out the back of the wardrobe, this is the Golden Ticket of the Dark is Rising sequence, and look so forward to getting the others from my local library to share. This is some of the best children’s fantasy writing I’ve ever read. Share it with your child today

5/5

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About Navah Vesper Anat Yehudit

I am an avid fan of the Ballet, am expanding my tastes in Opera and all all Classical Arts. I enjoy Japanese art, needle craft, crochet, knitting, and though my past-times are old-fashioned, and some of my ideas are, that isn't necessarily a bad thing in this age of progress for the sake of progress.
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