The sea cucumber seems to be a changeling, not quite animal, not quite vegetable. Namako: Sea Cucumber is a novel about Ellen, a 10-year-old Asian American girl, no longer a child, not quite a teenager, finding her way through a world of spirits and ancestors, ghost stories and secrets.
Leaving the United States, Ellen and her family travel to Japan to care for a sick grandmother Ellen has never met. In truth, the move is an effort to save her parents' marriage after Ellen discovers her father's affair. Once in Tokyo, Ellen is sent to stay with and learn from her seemingly disapproving grandmother. When her father buys a house in northern rural Japan, Ellen and her grandmother join the family. While there, Ellen's life changes rapidly -- she discovers a talent for art, gains a best friend, and grows to love her grandmother. Honoring a last request, Ellen and her mother journey with her grandmother to their ancestral home. There, finally, Ellen begins to integrate her family's history with her own future.