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The Diary of a Young Girl at Sea

by Peter Roop & Connie Roop & illustrated by Thomas B. Allen

Age Range: 8 - 10

Pub Date: May 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-689-82222-7
Publisher: Atheneum

A child’s experience on a whaling ship in 1851 is brought to life in this fictional account based on two real whaling families’ journals and diaries. Nine-year-old Laura and her younger brother William sail with their mother and sea-captain father on an expedition to the Arctic whaling grounds. They won’t return for seven months or until the ship is filled with 2,600 barrels of whale oil. Laura writes in her diary each day, sharing with readers the routines of eating, sleeping, and learning, as well as the adventures and the hardships of living on a small whaling ship. Excitement mounts as the ship enters arctic waters. Whales are hunted and processed. When unseasonably cold weather sets, the boat is caught in the ice and the captain is forced to abandon ship before reaching his goal. Laura and family travel in a longboat until they are rescued at sea, and there, Laura ends her diary. Allen’s (Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh, 1998, etc.) sepia ink sketches set alongside the text illustrate many objects that may be unfamiliar to the modern reader. These include a chamber pot, sailor’s knots, and a harpoon. Two-page color pencil-and-oil wash illustrations interspersed with the text give the larger context of the whaling scene. These luminous images sharpen the reader’s understanding of a bygone life. Additional information and historical background are included in an authors’ note, and a glossary is placed at the front of the book for easy reference. A good read with an interesting historical background. (Fiction. 8-10)