Charlotte has little recollection of her home in America. Since the age of six, she has lived with her family in England. Now they are returning to the New World after seven years, and Charlotte has an exciting sea voyage ahead of her. Her parents, sister and brother have already left. Having finished her studies for the term, she too will make the trip on a ship owned by the company that employs her father, accompanied by two other families also making the journey.
Upon arriving at the dock where the Seahawk is moored, however, Charlotte learns that the other passengers will not be joining her. The ship’s crew has scared away anyone who might want to board the ship. Believing she has no choice but to follow her father’s instructions, Charlotte ignores warnings from the vessel’s sailors. The cook, an elderly black man by the name of Zachariah, explains that the crew seeks revenge against the harsh Captain Jaggery. Charlotte decides to remain loyal to the captain, an educated, refined man of her own class. When she actually witnesses his cruelty firsthand, she finds herself torn between everything her upbringing has instilled in her and her keen sense of justice. Her decision to confront Jaggery wins her the friendship of the crew, but makes her the object of the captain’s wrath.
Avi presents this naive adolescent’s adventure through her own journal accounts. The reader experiences her inner turmoil as she struggles to choose the best course of action in this precarious situation. Slow at first, the plot gains momentum about one third of the way into the story. Charlotte is an admirable protagonist whose mistakes stem from her lack of experience rather than from ill will. Her efforts to make amends demonstrate moral strength and courage. Although the book’s conclusion is somewhat unrealistic and certainly not surprising, the story itself is quite engaging.
Jennifer Minicus is a wife and mother living in Ridgewood, NJ.