Betty Levin

Examines the relationship between past and future, history and fate.

Thorn is condemned to the sea by the people of the High Island because of his crippled leg. To save him, his father builds a boat and sails into the unknown searching for the land his parents came from, a land destroyed by a giant wave. The survivors call themselves the People of the Singing Seals and they are ambivalent about Thorn joining them. Only the Great Mother who is trying to recover the history of her tribe and Willow, a young woman who is apprenticed to her, risk getting close to Thorn. The fate of the People of the Singing Seals is precarious: few children are born, most of those are malformed. The tribe is dying. Is Thorn with his shrivelled leg and strange ways a good omen or a threat?

Betty Levin has written a deeply layered tale examining the relationship between past and future, history and fate

  • Ages: 17 -17
  • Grades: 9 - 12
  • Pages: 176
  • E-book: $8.95


Recent Reviews

Levin has written a challenging story about superstition, death, and friendship. ... a satisfying starting point for discussion.


The novel's focus is the structure of society and how community treats its members, from honored elders who lose status to young women who represent their future to newcomers with strange customs and tools. Levin uses the alternating voices of Thorn and Willow to effectively tell the story from varying viewpoints.....[T]here is plenty of sociological fodder for discussion. Reminiscent of Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue or even Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins.

—Voice of Youth Advocates

An unusually fine offering.

—Kirkus Reviews

There is much to explore in this novel including issues of superstition, the importance of remembering the past as a guide or warning for the future, and the way in which communities treat their weak or ill members. Levin imparts these messages through characters who must struggle to find insight (and through some who never see the error of their ways). An intentionally open-ended resolution will inspire both lively discussion and the same reflection that is present throughout the novel in Thorn's own quiet observations. The result is a powerful novel in the vein of Lowry's The Giver or Leavitt's The Dollmage.

—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books