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What's the story?
Charlotte Doyle is a properly brought up young lady who is traveling from England to rejoin her family in America. Through a series of apparently coincidental, but suspicious, events, she finds herself the lone passenger on a forbidding ship. Initially, Captain Jaggery seems to be a true gentleman and the crew a motley collection of sullen lower-class riffraff. It is only after her snobbishly misguided actions have foiled a justified mutiny and resulted in the deaths of two of the crew that she finally begins to see the truth.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Charlotte's growth over the course of the book. Why does she see and act the way she does early on? What causes her transformation? Is it believable in the circumstances?
Have you, or anyone you've known, ever undergone such a change of viewpoint? Worked hard to atone for mistakes?
Is it possible to overcome what you've been taught from birth? How much of ourselves is determined by upbringing, and how much can we decide for ourselves? Can we deliberately change who we are?
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