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The eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt
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The eyes of the Amaryllis (original 1977; edition 1977)

by Natalie Babbitt

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245646,947 (3.46)16
Member:OWSLibrary
Title:The eyes of the Amaryllis
Authors:Natalie Babbitt
Info:New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977.
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The Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt (1977)

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How would you react if you stood on the shore and watched helplessly while a ship carrying a loved one was dashed on the rocks within your sight, and you could do nothing to help? Would you feel closer to your lost loved one by staying in that spot? Or would the place fill you with fear and anger?

Jenny goes to spend time with her widowed grandmother in a home by the sea, and is drawn into Gram's search for a "sign" of her long-lost sea captain husband. Jenny ponders, for the first time, the possibility of things that cannot be explained. This is a gentle tale is of mystery, imagination, and family love -- and I loved it. It's set in an era of sailing ships and horses and buggies, but the themes are timeless. ( )
  tymfos | Aug 29, 2011 |
I must correct one other review. To be honest, it made me wonder if the reviewer had actually read the book. It is repeated over and over in the book that the ship broke up on rocks within sight of the location where the story takes place, not hundreds of miles away. It is also repeatedly mentioned that the grandmother and her son actually witnessed the sinking of the ship captained by her husband, which is why the son is so traumatized by the sea.

Also, it was obvious to my 13yo daughter that the sign the grandmother was waiting for was from her husband, a sign that their love carried beyond the grave. The story is, at its heart, a romance. It is a book about love not dying just because people do. How anyone can read the ending of the book and not get that is boggling to me.

Personally, I adored this book. It was a delight to find something on my daughter's school reading list that wasn't the typical "Death by Newbery Medal" book. The story was uplifting, and the protagonist had a coming of age that didn't involve being scarred for life. Happy endings in children's 'classics' are a rarity to be savored. ( )
  LGBooth | Apr 17, 2011 |
This abruptly written book struck me as abrupt and essentially, just not very believable.

It is the fable-like tale of a girl named Jenny who goes to visit her odd grandmother over the summer. Years ago, Gran's husband drowned at sea when his ship, the Amaryllis, sunk with no survivors. Nevertheless, she walks the beach every day, hoping for a sign, or for something to wash ashore to truly convince her that he is gone. Jenny helps her grandmother on these nightly beach-combings, where they occasionally come across an eerie man named Seward. When they finally do find something, Gran is overjoyed, but it seems that Seward, and the sea, want it back.

Before I launch into all of the bad, I must say that I did like the fairytale feel that this book has to it. Almost-ghosts and forgotten shipwrecks and treasure hunting a sea with a mind of its own? It sounds like perfect material to me. The children's perspective was also charming, though I think that the simple writing was also a major part of this books downfall.

Things are written quite abruptly. Maybe Babbitt was trying to shorten her book, or keep things going quickly, but many events seemed to be brushed over in a cursory manner, giving me the impression that they weren't all that important. This especially shows in the conversations, which never last more than a few paragraphs, and always cut straight to the point.

The biggest problem with this book was, in my opinion, the way that it simply doesn't seem very believable. Gran is waiting for something to wash up on her beach from the Amaryllis - anything at all, a button, or a piece of timber from the ship, perhaps. But this was not making very much sense to me. The Amaryllis didn't sink right offshore, it sunk hundreds of miles away. The possibility of anything from the wreck washing onto that particular little beach, out of ALL the beaches, is virtually an impossibility. Also, even if a button or a rope or scrap of wood DID wash ashore, how would anyone have any way of knowing what ship it came from? Gran does tell us that she doesn't think it will be an accident for something to wash ashore, but "a sign." She keeps calling it a sign, over and over. But what does she mean? A sign of what, from whom?

Also, whenever Jenny finds something, she hears the wind off of the sea call to her "true to you." Cute, but when I thought about, that didn't make any sense either. The sea never wanted her to find the first artifact from the ship - it made that quite clear by raising up an enormous hurricane to come steal it back. So why would it say this? Or is the wind saying this, which is a separate thing from the sea?

There were more aspects of the story I found unlikely, such as Nicholas Irving's tale of seeing the sunken Amaryllis, or the fact that the part of the ship that meant the most to Gran just happens to be the one that drifts ashore.

Maybe I am being too factual and not allowing myself to see the fairytale elements of the story. Of course the things that happen to Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and those people aren't *likely,* but they make a good story.
I personally do not think it is my fault, however, because the elements here did not make a good story, but a failed one. ( )
1 vote joririchardson | Feb 26, 2011 |
Jenny Reade is sent to Cape Cod to care for her grandmother Geneva, who has broken an ankle. Jenny is completely out of her element. Years earlier her sailor grandfather was lost at sea. Because Jenny's father has never come to terms with losing his father he barely visits his mother, who has remained in their seaside house, and he has never brought Jenny to meet her grandmother. As a result Jenny has never seen the sea.
The story takes on a mystical air when Jenny's true task comes to light. She is not there to care for Geneva while she is off her feet like her father thinks. She has been summoned to watch for her grandfather's ghost ship. Geneva strongly believes that her dead husband will send her a sign from the depths of the ocean, so every night Jenny walks the beaches in search of such a sign. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 15, 2010 |
The book was fine, but I had expected better. When a sailor is lost at sea, his wife chooses to wait by the shore for a sign from him, while his son moves away and wants nothing to do with the ocean. His daughter visits her grandmother for the summer and things happen. ( )
  raizel | Jul 14, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Natalie Babbittprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Avishai, SusanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bresnahan, AlyssaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.
- Song of Solomon 8:7
Dedication
First words
Listen, all you people lying lazy on the beach, is this what you imagine is the meaning of the sea? (prologue, Seward's warning)
"Well, Mother," said the big man uneasily, turning his hat round and round in his hands.
Quotations
"Do you believe in things you can't explain?"
Jenny sat silent, considering. No one had ever asked her such a question before. At last she said, "Like things in fairy tales?"
"No, child," said Gran. "I mean - that all the daily things we do, and all the things we can touch and see in this world, are only one part of what's there, and that there's another world around us all the time that's mostly hidden from us."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374422389, Paperback)

When the brig Amaryllis was swallowed in a hurricane, the captain and all the crew were swallowed, too. For thirty years the captain's widow, Geneva Reade, has waited, certain that her husband will send her a message from the bottom of the sea. But someone else is waiting, too, and watching her, a man called Seward. Into this haunted situation comes Jenny, the widow's granddaughter. The three of them, Gran, Jenny, and Seward, are drawn into a kind of deadly game with one another and with the sea, a game that only the sea knows how to win.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:32 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When eleven-year-old Jenny goes to stay with her widowed grandmother who lives by the seaside, she learns a great deal about the nature of love and the ways of the sea.

(summary from another edition)

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