Crow lives on a tiny island in the Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. When the tide is low, she and her guardian, a solitary painter named Osh, can walk across to the neighboring island of Cuttyhunk, where their dear friend Miss Maggie lives. Crow doesn’t know much about her past, except that she was born on Penikese, a nearby island that was once a leper colony and is now a bird sanctuary. Crow has always been curious about her past, and has always been treated like a leper by the people of Cuttyhunk.
When Crow sees a fire burning on Penikese, her curiosity grows and she asks Osh and Miss Maggie to take her to the island. Before they leave, Osh gives Crow a letter and a ring that were attached to her years ago when she was found as a baby. The letter has just a few scattered words in it, but sparks Crow’s curiosity even more. When the three head out to Penikese, Crow hears a thump in the old hospital as she is exploring. Her curiosity is interrupted when they come across a man who says he is the gamekeeper at the sanctuary and tells them they must leave. They notice that he has been digging holes all over the island, and they wonder why. Before they go, Crow notices the name ‘Morgan’, and a small lamb carved on one of the graves at the leper graveyard. Her curiosity intensifies, as one of the words in the letter was “lamb".
When they return home, Crow writes a letter to an old doctor who cared for the lepers at the Penikese hospital years before. She asks for information about the people on the island, and Dr. Eastman responds. Crow learns that there were only two children born on the island during the time of the leper colony, and they were born to a couple, Susanna and Elvan. One of the children, a boy named Jason, was sent to an orphanage as a baby. The other child, born years later, was stillborn and buried on the island. Dr. Eastman tells Crow of Susanna’s nurse, Evelyn Morgan, and suggests Crow write to her, as she was very close to Susanna. Crow writes the letter and while waiting for her response, she, Osh, and Miss Maggie return to Penikese Island to find out what was causing the noises inside the hospital. They discover the real birdkeeper, Mr. Sloan, tied up and gagged, and they realize that the man they saw before is very bad. Before they leave with Mr. Sloan, Crow sees carvings of a lamb and a feather inside one of the cottages and she realizes this has to mean something. Crow begins to understand that she is the daughter of Susanna and Elvan.
With all of this new information, Crow decides that she must travel to New Bedford, where the orphanage is, and try to find out more about Jason, who may be her brother. Osh refuses to leave the island and Miss Maggie says they can’t go for a few days, but that doesn’t work for Crow and she heads out on the ferry by herself. As the ferry is pulling into the harbor, Crow sees a schooner of sailors, and swears one of the sailors looks just like her. Could it be Jason? Crow finds the old orphanage, which is now part of a hospital, and talks to an old caretaker named Mrs. Pelham. Mrs. Pelham tells Crow that Jason lived at the orphanage for years, and when he was old enough, went out on his own. She says he visits from time to time, but no one knows where he is or what he has been up to. Crow asks Mrs. Pelham to tell Jason about her if he returns, and heads back on the ferry home. On her way back to the ferry she sees the man from Penikese who tied up Mr. Sloan. Crow watches as he goes into a pawn shop, and tries to avoid being seen. As she boards the ferry, however, the mysterious man catches her eye and recognizes her. Crow returns home to a very worried and upset Osh, and promises never to leave like that again.
When Nurse Evelyn responds, Crow learns the truth: Susanna and Elvan were her parents. Nurse Evelyn also tells Crow of a man named Mr. Kendall, who befriended her, got information from her about Penikese Island, and stole a necklace from her. Nurse Evelyn also answers Crows questions, and Crow learns that there is more than just a ring left by her parents. The words on the tattered letter that Osh gave her are clues for how to find it. Crow knows that they must return to Penikese at once. Before they venture out again, two police officers arrive, inquiring about Mr. Kendall. Crow tells them everything she knows, and the search for him begins. When Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie return to Penikese, they dig up the “grave” with the lamb on the stone. What they find is unbelievable; a trunk full of jewels, gems, diamonds, and gold. This was Susanna’s plan all along. They hastily gather the trunk and hurry off of the island.
When they return, Crow decides to hide the treasure in two different locations, and keeps a few precious items for herself. She constantly wonders about Jason, and watches for the schooner every day. One night, Osh and Crow hear noises that awakens them from sleep. They leave immediately and take shelter at Miss Maggie’s. When they return home the next day, they find that their home has been ransacked. Mr Kendall had been there and taken the jewelry that he found. They later learn that Mr. Kendall had tried to pawn the stolen jewelry and was arrested.
When a big storm is expected on the island, Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie prepare. As the wind and rain howl, Crow notices a schooner overturned, and they offer to care for one of the men who was rescued, the man who Crow thinks could be Jason. Meanwhile, Mr. Kendall has escaped from prison and has returned for what he thinks is his. Crow takes him to the tree where she hid part of the treasure, and he falls out of it, unmoving but alive. Miss Maggie and Crow tie him up, and when the police arrive, Mr. Kendall is finally gone for good. When the sailor awakens, Crow learns that his name is Quinn, and he is not her brother. Although she is disappointed, she realizes that she is grateful to know about her past, but she is also happy and lucky to have the family that she has now, with Osh as her father.
Beyond the Bright Sea is a mysterious and engaging story about finding yourself and appreciating what you have. It is a heartfelt and creative story that will win the hearts of students of all ages.