The Sea Chest
by Toni Buzzeo
illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN 978-0803727038
The Story Behind the Story
I "found" the sea chest story in March 1998 when I was previewing a video about Maine lighthouses, entitled Light Spirit, for my fourth graders at Longfellow School where I was the Library Media Specialist. The movie told the story of a baby in a sea chest, washed ashore at Hendricks Head Light. I fell in love with the idea and spent a year thinking about how I could write that story. My friend, children's author Jane Kurtz, said that if it were her idea, she'd be imagining a relationship between sisters. 

That started me thinking about my own childhood as a lonely only child for so many years and the two events that changed all that.  When I was nine, my parents determined that they would never give birth to another child.  They decided to take in a foster child--nine-month-old Marianne--while the courts were waiting for her adoption by another couple to be finalized.  We knew she wouldn't be ours forever, but we loved her as if she would.  I adored having a sister and being a sister! 
Before long, as often happens, my mother discovered that she was expecting a baby.  After nine months, Marianne's adoption had cleared the courts, and she was ready to go off to the new family eagerly awaiting her.  It was terribly hard to let her go, and I missed her every day, even when, a month after my tenth birthday, I found myself being a sister again--this time to my biological sister, Karen. 
Suddenly, as I remembered those childhood years, I had all of the emotions I needed to write the book. One summer morning in July 1999 the story came rushing out onto paper. It wasn't until much later that I began my research and learned the origins of the baby-in-the-sea-chest legend, however, and understood that it wasn't an historic event at all.  Nevertheless, I think it makes a wonderful story!

Read more about the Story Behind the Story of The Sea Chest and writing historical fiction at The Children's Book Review.  Or visit Cynthia Leitich Smith’s site for another article HERE.

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