REVENGE OF THE WHALE by Nathaniel Philbrick

REVENGE OF THE WHALE

The True Story of the Whaleship Essex
Age Range: 12 & up
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Philbrick cuts down his National Book Award–winning In the Heart of the Sea (2000) for a younger audience, but leaves in plenty of gruesome detail. In a notorious incident that later inspired the climactic scene in Moby-Dick, the Nantucket whaler Essex was attacked and sunk by a huge sperm whale, leaving 20 crew members in three small boats, “just about as far from land as it was possible to be anywhere on Earth.” After three months of terrible privation, eight survivors were rescued; two of whom went on to write about the experience. Philbrick draws expertly from these sometimes contradictory narratives, as well as other documents and modern research, all to create a stomach-churningly precise account that includes just how whales were hunted and cut up, the effects of prolonged thirst (“The tongue swells to such proportions that it squeezes past the jaw. The eyelids crack and the eyeballs begin to weep tears of blood . . . ”), and the fact that most of the survivors lived by eating their shipmates—African-Americans and non-Nantucketers first. The author tucks in plenty of maps, diagrams, and contemporary prints, and rounds off this horrifyingly engrossing entry in the annals of anthropophagy with a look at the survivors’ later lives. Fans of Marian Calabro’s Perilous Journey of the Donner Party (1999) and the like will lick their chops. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-399-23795-X
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2002




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