“Over Sea, Under Stone” by Susan Cooper is the first book in The Dark is Rising Series. Some times I review a whole series at a time, but these classic young adult fantasy fiction books have been around since the 1960s and are often recommended individually, especially the first two in the series.
This first book is a little different than the rest because the magic in it is mostly hinted at. As you read more into the series, you can look back to the first book and see a bit more magic in the way the Dark controls people. At first reading, though, you may even explain some of that as military level mind games. Instead, this story is more of a mystery, a hunt for the holy grail.
The book follows three children, Simon, Jane, and Barney as they go on vacation with their parents and great-uncle Merrimack Lyon to Trewissick in Cornwall. In the old house they are staying at, they discover a map and follow clues with the help of their great-uncle. Of course, the Dark learns of their discovery and are soon after the children.
The story is fun and perfect for-middle-school readers. There is no cursing, violence, or sexual contact at all. It is clean and non-religious. It has clear good and bad characters with a theme of good versus evil.
Honestly, it is hard to find non-political and non-religious children’s books that are as fun, clean, and straight forward as this. I would definitely recommend this book as part of anyone’s library. It isn’t a book I would use in a literature class, but that is because I prefer to teach from books that have more character development and complexity. Still, I think we need more of these lighter books for the sake of children’s mental health and pure enjoyment.