Study Guide

Secrets at Sea

By Richard Peck

Secrets at Sea Introduction

Shmoopers, we'd like to introduce you to some furry fairy godmothers: Helena, Louise, Beatrice, and Lamont. They're spunky. They're small. Oh—and they're mice.

Yep, mice. Talking mice, to be exact.

Just open up a copy of Secrets at Sea, and you'll find cute little rodents in every nook and cranny. In Richard Peck's coming-of-age tale, we've got a horde of mice about to go on a big crazy adventure, and they're gearing up to meddle in some human affairs along the way.

While this book gives us a pretty peaceful opening—we've got our new mice friends living in America, and life is pretty fine and dandy—don't be fooled. Their world is about to turn upside-down when their humans, the Cranston family, decide to sail to England because they want their daughter, Olive, to find a handsome English chap and get hitched. Now these mice are in for some major changes. We're talking sea-faring, duchess-meeting, tea-drinking changes.

On board the ship, the Cranston mice don't just lay low—nope, they make it their business to get into everyone else's business. This means they take matchmaking into their hands (okay, paws), and get to work. With these furry fairy godmothers scurrying behind the scenes, maybe—just maybe—this new life in England will turn out all right.

Now when you've got a book that includes talking mice and secret romances, you've got a recipe for awesomeness. And that's exactly what Peck's readers think. Ever since he published Secrets at Sea in 2011, readers have been scampering to get their paws (okay, hands) on it.

And Peck is no newbie to the book-writing game. He's written dozens of novels for young adults, and he's even won the seriously prestigious Newbery Medal. So it's no surprise that this young adult adventure story is another keeper.

What is Secrets at Sea About and Why Should I Care?

There's no denying it: it's tough to face your fears. Whether they're spiders or scary movies, fears sure can be hard to tackle. And if there's anyone who knows what it's like to be afraid, it's a little mouse named Helena Cranston.

Here's the deal with Helena: she's scared of just about everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but her list is pretty long—her phobias range from barns to birds to water. And when you're a mouse who's afraid of water, the very last place you want to be is on a huge ship. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean. For a really long time.

But with some hard work and faith in herself, Helena finds a way to overcome her fears. Sure she's scared as all get-out when she and her mice siblings hop on board a big boat and sail to England, but in learning to face her fears, Helena has some great adventures, too. She makes new chums and she even meets royalty. Our gal Helena is here to remind us that facing our fears might actually turn out to be fun. Who knew?

Secrets at Sea Resources


Howdy, Richard Peck
Richard Peck has been on loads of adventures. Read about what got him writing in the first place.

Teach Us, Kelly Murphy
Kelly Murphy, the awesome illustrator of Secrets at Sea, is a teacher too. Check out this bio to learn about what she calls the "Three C's."


Rave Reviews for Rodents
When it comes to mice, Peck knows what he's talking about. And all the critics agree: they love Secrets at Sea.

What Does a Mouse House Look Like?
Kelly Murphy sure did her research when it came to illustrating this book.

Mice Are the New Vampires
Tons of books have been written about our little rodent buddies. This New York Times article gives us a peek into Secrets at Sea and mice lore.


Why'd You Choose Mice, Mr. Peck?
Take a look at this interview with Richard Peck, and learn all about his favorite books. We're guessing some of them may surprise you.

Recap the Book In Under a Minute
It'll only take one minute to watch this quick intro to the book. And it'll definitely make you want to flip through the pages.


Mice on a Boat
Check out these illustrations by Kelly Murphy. She's quite the master artist when it comes to our mousy characters.