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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that some minor issues are raised, such as the value of organization. But the main topic is the literary style: Told in dual journals, gradually revealing the important backstory in hints and snippets, leaving loose ends, it's an unusual way to tell a story.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sophie is excited to be sailing a 45-foot twin-masted schooner across the Atlantic to see her grandfather, Bompie, in England. Sailing with her are three uncles and two cousins. Uncle Dock is pursuing a lost love, Uncle Stew and his son Brian are obsessively organized and bossy, and Uncle Mo likes to criticize his son Cody, who enjoys driving him crazy in return.
In the first third of the book this motley crew works on getting the rather decrepit old boat ready for the voyage, and then making a shakedown cruise from Connecticut to Nova Scotia, with stops along the way. Then they head out into the open sea, where they encounter whales, dolphins, and a huge storm that nearly wrecks the boat.
Is it any good?
Lyrically told in alternating journal entries by Sophie and Cody, this exciting sailing adventure is merely the roiling surface of the sea of their lives. Underneath is the story of Bompie's life, revealed in a series of stories that Sophie tells the crew, and Sophie's life, which is not the way she portrays it in her journal. Through hints and snippets in Cody's journal, the reader gradually comes to understand the reality of her past, from which Sophie is hiding.
All of these stylistic techniques will make this especially fascinating to some experienced readers while it will confuse others. Children who are fascinated by sailing will also be drawn in, and those who have the patience to wait for the gradual unfolding of the truth will be intrigued. The Wanderer has become a favorite choice for reading groups and literature circles because of its complexity, but for that same reason it should not be forced on kids who are not ready for it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the author's use of dueling narrators to tell a story. What are the differences between Cody and Sophie's versions of the same events? At what point do you realize that Sophie might not be telling the whole truth? How different would this book be if the author had chosen to use just one narrator?