Ears on the Odyssey

Review: Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea

Kelley Beeson reviews  this middle grade read of sisters’ summer adventures. 

The cover of Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea: two blonde girls float in the ocean in a pink shellI could be my old age, or a devolving temperament, but I struggled with the sweetness of SSotSS (Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea will be heretofore referred to as SSotSS for efficiency). Why did I keep waiting for someone to drown, a deadly falcon attack, someone to be stung by a jellyfish or some other beachy-tragedy? I think it speaks to being a victim of our times, sadly. But I’m aware of it and I fought against it the whole 3 hours and 15 minutes.

I continued to remind myself that I’m not this book’s target audience but I once was (wasn’t I?) And I think I would have enjoyed this book so very much as an 11 year old girl who, like Alix, was also curious, fascinated by animals and just starting the journey of figuring herself out (btw, when does that come to a close?) So SSotSS is one long, delicious week at the beach with sisters, Alix and Jools, made up of small moments that, all together, create very strong and lasting memories.

The sugary-sweet voice of Brittany Pressley, the narrator, might have tipped the precious-scale for me because the story alone isn’t really too Lisa-Frank-pinks-and-orchids. But, while she brings an appropriate youth to the story, Pressley also carries in a cutesy tone (and it really bugged me when she was speaking as the girls’ parents) that leaves a solid saccharine aftertaste. I want to say, a good bit of the time, it sounded like Romper Room, but I won’t. Now, again, would an 11 year old girl hear it that way? Probably not, but parents listening alongside their children, might wince from time to time. Pressley has staying-power too; she maintains her honeyed voices the whole way, so props for consistency!

Brittany Pressley headshot blonde hair in blue shirt

Brittany Pressley ©Books on Tape

Something that Perkins is responsible for that doesn’t translate all that well into audio are all the ‘he saids’ and ‘she saids.’ There are so many! And it begins to sound inauthentic and create an effect that can easily jolt a listener straight out of the story and away from what’s actually being said. But overall, this is a solid performance from Pressley (my first encounter with her as a performer) and a short (in the world of audio books) simple story of a family vacation where nothing really bad happens.  

Perhaps I unfairly expected something different from Perkins who’s a past Newbery Medal winner for her amazing book Criss Cross. Not fair, I know. But besides my complaints about the syrup that Pressley pours over SSotSS, I did enjoy all the small moments of discovery, exploration, new friends and just a dash of growing-pains that all add up to a very lovely little audio book.

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins, read by Brittany Pressley. 3 hours,15 minutes. HarperAudio, 2018.

Kelley Beeson is a former Odyssey Committee member and has a background in childrens’ librarianship and poetry. She is now Cooper-Siegel Community Library’s Adult Service Department Head in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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