Friday, September 18, 2009

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

2000 Aladdin Paperbacks

STOWAWAY was an interesting read. Initially I picked this book up because I planned to read all the New York Times Bestsellers I could stand. This book is another reason that the NYTB list annoys me to no end. I cannot figure out what it is about this book that would make thousands of people read it. It was an ok book, nothing special and yet thousands of people spent $6.99 on it.

I found that STOWAWAY didn't hold my attention. It is the story of Nicholas Young, a stowaway on the H.M.S Endeavor that sails from England to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. The plot sounds like it should be interesting; a young boy accompanying an expedition to discover the unknown world. Yet the writer mishandles which should be an easy sell.

STOWAWAY is surprisingly slow. It spends quite a bit of time on needless information and sometimes glosses over the scenes that could be entertaining. The author assumes that the reader has a lot of historical and geographical knowledge. There were times in the book that I could identify the location of the ship because I had just read about it in the National Geographic. It seems that the author does not know who their audience is. Is it adult history buffs or thirteen year old boys? It is never quite clear. Overall, the book was a 3 out of 5 if I had to rank it. It was not terrible but it wasn't great, or even moderately good.

Other Reviews: Review:

To 11-year-old Nicholas Young, the tall masts of the exploratory ship Endeavour look like an answer to his fervent prayers. On the run from his demanding father and the cruel butcher who employed him, Nick finds adventure beyond his wildest imaginings when he stows away on the ship of legendary Captain James Cook. Once he is discovered and put to work, Nick becomes party to some amazing sights. He meets indigenous natives of Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia, wonders at the sight of kangaroos, and shudders with horror when confronted with cannibalism. Nick survives a hurricane, a near shipwreck on the Great Barrier Reef, and a deadly bout with typhoid to become one of the few original crew members to successfully circumnavigate the globe with Cook and arrive safely back in England. He notes in his worn journal shortly before sighting his homeland's shore: "We have truly led the way, charting the path for all who come after. I don't know I shall ever feel so again as I feel now. That any of us shall."
Newbery Medal-winning Karen Hesse's story is based on actual Endeavour stowaway Nicholas Young, about whom little is known. Using the real 1768 diaries of Captain Cook and shipboard naturalist Joseph Banks, Hesse has changed Young from a forgotten footnote into a living, breathing person with red hair and a penchant for pork chops. So authentic you can feel the sea spray, this fine fictionalized diary is a nautical treasure for landlubbers young and old. (Ages 10 and older) --Jennifer Hubert

From Publishers Weekly:

Sparkling with humor, poignancy and adventure, Newbery Medal-winner Hesse's (Out of the Dust) historical novel, told in diary form, was inspired by a real boy who stowed away aboard Captain James Cook's ship Endeavour on its 1768 voyage. The author bases the story on what little is known about 11-year-old Nicholas Young (he could read and write, for instance, and was made an official crew member in April 1769 when the ship reached Tahiti) and spins an imaginative tale firmly anchored in fact. The brief diary entries adhere to the ship's actual itinerary and detail Nick's adventures (and misadventures), among them his ongoing run-ins with a vindictive midshipman (also documented), the excitement and danger of rounding Cape Horn and the captain's disappointment in the view of Venus's transit across the sun (one of the main reasons for the voyage). Nick grows into young manhood irrevocably shaped by the three-year voyage, teaching an illiterate shipmate to read, befriending a Tahitian boy and witnessing cannibalism as well as a share of tragedy while helping to nurse a crew ravaged by accident and disease. His lively observations (on seasickness: "I can say now that Gentlemen heave the contents of their stomach same as eleven-year-old stowaways") keep the action sailing smoothly forward, while Hesse's impeccable research buttresses the narrative with a wealth of detail. A sprinkling of Parker's pen-and-ink illustrations adds an additional layer of texture, while an author's note and extensive glossary round out this compelling volume. Ages 10-14. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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