The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons Book Poster Image
Brave heroine faces danger with help of magic and friends.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Includes information about small-craft sailing/ships and ways of life in early 20th-century Maine, including methods of long-distance communication, gender roles, clothing, food, and schooling for children.

Positive Messages

A kind person's nature is to help others, even if that means risking your physical safety. It's wrong for an adult to hurt a child.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The brave and resourceful Lucy P. Simmons increasingly learns to have faith in her own abilities; she sets a positive example for young girls. Lucy's role models are her parents, who were affectionate, loving, and instructive; their faithful servant, Addie, who risks her job and safety to help Lucy; and the calm and wise Marni, who dedicates herself to helping children in need.

Violence

A fair amount of violence here for a middle-grade novel. "The Brute" is forceful and selfish; he causes Lucy's parents' accident by trying to force his way onto their boat, and he beats his own children, knocks down an old man, and raises his hand to strike Addie. The novel includes a chase scene in which Lucy and others are pursued by the Brute, who tries to force his way onto their carriage.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Readers don't witness any drinking, but it's explained that "the Brute" beats his children when he's drunk, which is quite often.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Barbara Mariconda's The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons includes adventure on land and the high seas, magic, diabolical villains, and a pure-hearted young heroine. Early in the novel, the main character is involved in a sailing accident in which her parents apparently drown. The book also includes a child-beater who's also a drunkard. Though readers don't "see" him hit the children or drink, they do see him threaten violence and endanger others. There are several dramatic, dangerous situations involving the potential injury or drowning of children.

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What's the story?

Lucy P. Simmons is the sea-loving daughter of a sailing captain and his loving wife. But when a family outing early in the novel quickly turns dangerous because of bad weather and a drunken "Brute," Lucy becomes the only survivor of an accident that apparently claims her parents' lives. Mr. Simmons' will stipulates that Lucy's Aunt Prudence have custody of Lucy and the family estate, but by the time Lucy wakes up after the accident, it has already been determined that Prudence can't be reached, so Lucy's other aunt and uncle, Margaret and Victor, will care for her. Victor is a cruel villain who wants Lucy out of the way so he can profit from his late brother's property, and Lucy -- with the help of some friends and magic that seems to protect her house by the sea -- must find a way to rescue herself and her parents' legacy.

Is it any good?

THE VOYAGE OF LUCY P. SIMMONS has a lot to recommend it: adventure, a brave young heroine, and a magical house by the sea. The plot takes some twists and turns that will be exciting (and possibly scary) to kids. And, although a "happy ending" seems a foregone conclusion in a book of this type for this age group, there definitely are some surprises.

But some of the thrilling scenes -- the carriage chase, a powerful storm -- are described in confusing detail and can be difficult to follow. It also seems a bit easy for magic to intervene when all seems lost.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Lucy's father feels he must try to save "the Brute." What does Lucy learn about herself when she faces a similar dilemma?

  • What makes Lucy a special heroine? What other books you've read or movies you've seen have brave female main characters?

  • What do you think causes the magic in the book to happen?

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