Join us on The Drift House ...
This story is exactly why I love children's fantasy stories. No one thinks a story weird because you can talk to a whale or fly on a carpet. Now, the kids find the Sea of Time a strange place, but they quickly adapt and the reader can enjoy the ride as well. There are all kinds of fantastical creatures to meet and a new world to explore. As is typical with children's fantasy, the adults are either out of the picture, useless or incapacitated, thus requiring the kids to save the day. (I'd like to think with Uncle Farley that it was only the latter as I rather liked him and hope he'll have more of a role to play in future installments than just semi-absent caretaker.)
Hey, big surprise - Susan is a practical girl. And Charles is a geek. And Murray is just an annoying little kid. OK, so the characters fortunately prove to have more depth to them than that, and the POV does shift between Susan and Charles nicely, so you get multiple courses of action and thought. These are kids I started to care about and was eager to spend time with.
The basic plot is one familiar to books for kids. Life gets turned upside down when Susan and her younger brothers Charles and Murray are sent to Canada to stay with their rather odd Uncle Farley. How odd? His house looks like a run-down ship for one. (We won't even get into the talking parrot.) Turns out there's a reason the house looks like a ship, though, as they wake up one morning to the wide open seas instead of Canada. No communication back to the world they know and no means of propulsion means they're just ... well, drifting. (Get it? Drift House? Drifting?) And now, the fantasy part starts as mermaids, great whales and pirates enter the picture. The mermaids are trying to stop time itself and it's up to Susan - with a little help from her brothers and the pirates - to keep them from doing so.
Don't forget the second book!
This time, Susan and Charles show up at their uncle's house with the Book of Time. Bet you can't guess what happens?
That's right, this story has the pair on an adventure that takes them back and forth through time, meeting historical (and future) characters as much as mystical ones. Not sure President Wilson is a good substitute for mermaids, necessarily, but there you go.
One odd part here is the appearance of their little brother Murray. They left him behind in NY with the chicken pox (poor boy) but he makes plenty of appearances anyway. I'll leave you to read the book to find out more on that one.
It's been a few years since this one came out, so I'm inclined to think this might the end of the Drift House Chronicles. Peck has been focused on more adult stories instead.
The second one does have a Kindle version, but the first does not.
More Good Ideas
And a few more books I've read that you might enjoy. Much like the Drift House books, they bring a touch of the fantastic in to our very normal world.
Geared toward a slightly younger audience than the Drift House, which makes it good if you've got a beginning reader looking for a chapter book adventure. Similar kind of rabbit-hole start as the Drift House where Roxie and the Hooligans (not her gang, but her bullies) go through a dumpster and land in a very different world.
Here, the fantasy comes to our world rather than the characters falling into it. Loved the creative ideas for candy here - rock candy that makes you float, jawbreakers that make you unbreakable - and the core story is cool too. Just found out there's a second book in this series, so I'm looking forward to reading that one as well.