Book review by Aarene Storms: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Linus Baker is a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, embedded deeply in a grey, dystopic world where magic is registered, classified, and most of all: wrong. Linus trudges through his colorless job -- and his equally colorless life -- until he is sent on a classified and very strange assignment: to assess an orphanage on a distant island and determine the fate of the six magical children there.

Linus gradually learns more about each of the children, including Talia, a gnome with a fantastic talent for gardening, Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose great ambition is to be a bellhop, and most of all Lucy, who is the Antichrist. In the process, he also makes some gradual realizations about himself ... and about Arthur, the master of the orphanage.

Part 1984, part Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, plus small amounts of Peter Pan and Anne of Green Gables, this delightful story teases apart all the elements of "home" and "society" and "family" and weaves them back together into a cozy new thing that simultaneously encourages both smiles and deeper thought.

This book is marketed for adult readers, but I will happily hand it to my middle school-aged friends. Some minor cussing, bullying, and references to physical and verbal abuse of children, countered by some very affirming love.

Put this book at the top of your list, y'all. The audiobook was not narrated in a British accent, which surprised me -- although the story never explicitly says the locations, it feels very British. It was still enjoyable (but Jim Dale, narrator of the Harry Potter series) would have been a best choice.

Aarene Storms is a librarian who reads and reviews books for all ages. She can be reached at


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