Never heard of Annie Christmas or Mike Fink?
Miller calls upon her storytelling voice to weave anecdotes from folklore about these two larger-than-life characters into a novel, casting a river pirate’s daughter at the helm of this eddy of an adventure. When the great earthquake of 1811 causes the Mississippi to run backward, River Fillian’s father is killed in a fire, leaving her alone with just his carved spyglass. Annie Christmas takes her under her wing, along with her nine sons (all with “C” names: Cully, Cam, Coby, etc.), and together they set off to find Blackbeard’s treasure, buried by Jean Lafitte. They pick up historical and legendary figures along the way, including Mike Fink, and River rescues a young tiger, which becomes her protective sidekick. A passel of scoundrels pursues them through the swamps and bayous around New Orleans. This strong-girl-heroine tale is abundant in descriptions of river life, but the colloquial language tends to impede the narrative flow, and although it’s an adventure, it’s almost too packed with action for the pages to contain it. The cover depicts River and her tiger in a lighthearted moment, suggesting a “prettified story,” which River assures readers it’s not. “There you are and there you ain’t.…[T]hat’s life on the raggedy edge.”
A breakneck tale that never quite catches its breath. (author’s note, bibliography) (Adventure. 9-12)