The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
By Avi, Published 1990
“What could I do? All my life I had been trained to obey, educated to accept. I could hardly change in a moment. ‘Please lead me,’ I mumbled, as near to fainting as one could be without actually succumbing.”
What an unusual children’s book. I admit I was riveted, despite the amount of drama and violent scenes. There was something so compelling about the way it was written, as a first person journal of a 13-year-old, that it was hard not to be taken in with her amazing adventure. While I think this children’s book is not for every young person, there are some that would really devour it as I did, despite myself!
The writing is quite good, although I must admit I blur over the nautical details. But the drama is unceasing. And the ending is such a delightful surprise, it’s worth all the messiness of the ocean crossing. Basically, a young girl sails unaccompanied across the Atlantic on a ship piloted by a tyrant, and mutinied by a scraggy crew. The young girl’s transformation mid voyage is nothing short of remarkable, and in fact, long overdue, so we cheer for her as she changes.
The book also attempts to shed light on the values of the 1800’s, and in that respect, it would be interesting to use it in a classroom setting where that era is being studied. And although the heroine is a girl, everyone else is male, so the boys could get into this children’s book equally well. For kids who like swashbuckling pirates, this one will make a dent! I marked it as historical fiction because it’s an honest attempt to capture women’s limited freedom in the 1800’s.