The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea
Author: Eileen Beha
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (2014)
"Once, in a fine house on a high cliff above a frozen sea, Throckmorton S. Monkey heard the frenzied barks of the family dogs announcing the approach of a stranger."
This book caught my eye as I was wandering through the children's section of my local library. When I was a girl I owned and loved a sock monkey. I also liked to read books told from the perspective of dolls or stuffed toys, so I thought I would give this one a try.
Throckmorton is the hand-sewn sock monkey belonging to Annaliese Easterling. She is nine years old and has moved on from playing with dolls. One day a letter comes to the house addressed to Throckmorton S. Monkey, so Annaliese, with the help of a maid, searches frantically for him. Once they locate him, the letter is opened. It is an invitation from Annaliese's Great-Grandmama requesting the presence of Throckmorton and his keeper at a party in honor of her ninetieth birthday. Great-Grandmama made Throckmorton, in fact she made a sock monkey for each baby born in the family and has sent invitations to them all.
The story is told from the perspective of Throckmorton mostly. Sometimes it shifts to a narrator voice. The story seemed delightful at the beginning, but became less so as it went on. Many of the adults in the story are portrayed as unloving or even cruel. Annaliese doesn't remember her mother. She left when Annaliese was a baby, but no one will tell her why she left. In fact, her father has forbade her from speaking about her. Her father is portrayed as cold and even cruel. One of the maids is referred to as "that wicked Madge" and is often cruel to Annaliese and her brothers. Even Great-Grandmama is rather cold and uncaring, even though she orders Annaliese to her quarters to have tea. This is a common trope in children's literature, but in stories where it works, the reader has grown to love the hero or heroine of the story. They have been shown to be moral or selfless or loving or interesting or relatable. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that way about Annaliese.
This is not a bad story and I think a young middle school child would probably enjoy reading it. However, because of the negative portrayal of adults in the story and the lack of a strong heroine, I don't know that I would recommend it.