A girl in the far north wants to go still farther north.
Ten-year-old Oona lives in the village of Nordlor, which sits beside a fjord that stretches to the Great Northern Sea. She wants to be a ship’s captain like her father; she wants to catch whales and see the magical creatures called nardoos that might live in the northern ocean. However, Nordlor girls and women aren’t allowed on ships at all—they’re not even taught to read. Moreover, Oona’s own family hates her. Using elements familiar from Western fairy tales (Oona’s the seventh child, the youngest, the hated one, the only pretty one) and tall tales (cats who play fiddles and go down with their ship; houses that retain characteristics of the ship whose wood they’re built from), Woods gives stowaway Oona the freezing ocean adventure of her dreams, including celestial navigation and an unexpected (and unexplained) connection between nardoos and the northern lights. Allepuz decorates the adventure with nautical sketches in the margins and some appealingly gruff full-page drawings. Unfortunately, a settler/colonialist premise underlies everything: Nordlor is in the “wild…north,” named for a “great explorer,” and explicitly “settled” by an entirely white population; indigenous people don’t seem to exist or have ever existed, while white people use whale blubber (which they also eat), seal skin, and fox fur.
A rousing seafaring adventure about a brave girl—based, alas, on unacknowledged erasure. (Fantasy. 8-11)