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Secrets at Sea

Last updated Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Author: Richard Peck
Illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Date of Publication: 2011
ISBN: 0803734557
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2012

Synopsis: From Amazon.com:
Helena is the oldest of four mouse siblings who live in the walls of the Cranston estate. It is 1887 when the nouveau riche Cranstons decide to take a cruise ship to England in search of a husband for their awkward older daughter. The Cranston mice stow away in the luggage . . . and so begins the time of their lives, as they meet intriguing, cosmopolitan mice onboard and take it upon themselves to help the human Cranston daughters find love. They might just find perfect futures for themselves as well!

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you have any brothers or sisters? Are you the oldest? Youngest? In the middle?
•  Do you ever see wild mice? Have you had a pet mouse?
•  Does anyone know where the Hudson Valley is? (Upstate New York)

•  Bustle (garment) -- A framework used to support the back of a woman's skirt -- primarily used in the 19th century.
•  Skittery -- Moving quickly, restlessly, or irregularly; skittish
•  Jittery --Having or feeling nervous unease
•  Wad (of money) -- A bunch of money folded together
•  Ridiculous -- Extremely silly or unreasonable
•  Agog -- Very eager or curious to hear or see something
•  "High and Dry" -- Stranded, without help or hope of recovery (someone running away you when you need their help).
•  Defying -- Openly resist or refuse to obey
•  Tarry -- Stay longer than intended; delay leaving a place
•  Scudding -- Move fast in a straight line because or as if driven by the wind
•  Scamper -- Run with quick light steps, especially through fear or excitement
•  Chamber Pot -- A pot or bowl used at night instead of going outside to use the toilet.
•  Thimble -- A small hard pitted cup worn for protection on the finger that pushes the needle in sewing
•  Meek -- Quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  When do you think this takes place? (late 19th or early 20th century)
•  Do you think mice really act like this when we're not watching?
•  Do you think it's fair for Helena to take care of the rest of her siblings? Do you think she's doing a good job?
•  Why you think only Lamont goes to school? Is that fair?
•  Why do the Cranstons have to go to Europe? What does it mean that they want to give Olive "Her Chance?"
•  Have you ever done something you knew was dangerous because your friends wanted to do it?
•  Do you think it's safe for Louise to talk to Camilla?
•  Do you think Beatrice really sneaked out?
•  What do you think the mouse family will do?

Craft ideas:
•  Design a mouse house. Where will the mice sleep? Where are the best places for doors from the mouse house to the human house?
•  Make a mouse bed out of construction paper. Decorate it before you fold it!
•  Draw a mouse and then cut out clothing for them to wear.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!