2 March 2006,Margaret K. McElderry Books
Sam Robbins is a child in London in 1805 when he goes to live with an uncle to learn to make rope to help the war effort, but the two get press ganged and end up on Lord Nelson's ship. His story concerns life on the ship and all of its privations, and well as the battles in which the ship participates. Alternately, we get the story of Molly, who moves to the States against her will when her mother marries an American. At an antique shop, she finds a scrap of cloth that is a piece of a flag that flew over Sam's ship. She finds out a little more about it, and when her mother takes her back to England to visit, she and her grandfather go see the ship, and due to her epilepsy, she manages to travel back in time and meet Sam.
Strengths: I really liked each story separately, and loved when Molly went back to London and visited one of her favorite places-- Kensington Palace gardens. That's my happy place, too. The parts about Sam reminded of me of Dowswell's Powder Monkey series.
Weaknesses: The time travel and the coincidences of Molly finding the book with the scrap in it were unconvincing, and came much too late in the book. The time travel by epilepsy was also done in Sherburne's Why Have the Birds Stopped Singing? but makes less sense here.
Verrico, Susan. Privateer's Apprentice
1 September 2012, Peachtree Publishers
Hardcover copy from YABC and reviewed there.
Jameson's parents mother and printer father die in the early 1700s, and after a bit of living rough he is auctioned off for stealing bread. The baker who ran him in purchases him as a helper in the bakery. At least there Jameson has food and clothing, but he is soon taken off the street by sailors from a privateering ship. The ship, under the command of the infamous Attack Jack, is in the service of Queen Anne, working to map the New World so that England can claim territory there. Life on board a ship during this time was unpleasant, and the book is filled with details of weevils in the flour, horrible wounds, and storms at sea. Despite having been press ganged onto the ship, Jameson eventually makes friends with the other sailors and ends up being a valuable crew member.
Strengths: I just had an 8th grade history class assigned to read a book set during this time period, and this would be a good one, since one of the assignments is to discuss events in the book and research what was really happening at the time. The life of a sailor was pretty gross, and middle school students love that sort of thing. This was a serviceable story set during this time period.
Weaknesses: This is a fairly slim volume, so there is no reason for the lines to be so closely spaced and the page margins to be so small. This may seem like a petty complaint, but when middle grade students pick up books, they care deeply about the white space on the page and will put books down if the text is too dense. I was hoping for more fighting at sea and was disappointed that most of the sailor's time was spent living on board.