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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A strong depiction of 19th-century life and values, and heavily research-based view of sailing ships, sailors, and the trans-Atlantic crossing.
Some racism against a black cook. But otherwise, messages are very positive. Charlotte begins the story with ingrained race, class, and sex role prejudices, but learns better during the course of the book. She makes tremendous sacrifices to stand up for what she believes, and to atone for mistakes she made in ignorance.
Positive Role Models
Charlotte shakes off the shackles of her proper upbringing to become the person she decides to be, enduring much hardship in the process. She models looking at her own beliefs, outlook, actions, and their consequences objectively, then acting decisively to make real changes in herself and to atone for her mistakes.
Violence & Scariness
A man is whipped almost to death, another is stabbed to death, and a third is beaten so severely that his arm must be amputated. Later he is shot and killed, graphically described, and his body is tossed overboard. A man strikes another with a belaying pin. A mention of men hanged and crows pecking out their eyes, and the young heroine is condemned to hang, though she doesn't.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A mention of rum.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is some violence here, some a bit graphic: men are whipped, and killed by knife and gun, and the young heroine is condemned to hang, though she doesn't. The story takes place in a time of racism, sexism, and rigid class distinctions.
Is It Any Good?
Avi is an old hand at writing fine children's books in several genres, including historical fiction, and here he begins with one of the best opening hooks ever. Instead of an Introduction or Author's Note before the first chapter, CHARLOTTE DOYLE begins with An Important Warning. See From the Book below for that warning. From that promising beginning, the author sweeps us into a breathtaking and suspenseful adventure at sea.
The story is satisfying for several reasons. As an action-packed, edge-of-the-seat adventure, it should be appealing even to reluctant readers. It combines an exciting story with thought-provoking consideration of issues, such as bigotry, honor, justice, and the necessity of letting beliefs dictate actions. The characters, major and minor, are complex and unpredictable. And, of all of the genre-bending plot elements here, perhaps none is as enthralling as seeing a young teen girl take on a traditionally male role in the gender-divided 19th century, not by hiding who she is and pretending to be a boy, but by becoming her true self out of conviction and determination.
From the Book:
An Important Warning
Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. . .If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.