Four children bond over multiple mysteries in this historical adventure for preteens.
It’s 1866, and young Emma Green has moved with her family–including her ex-Navy Civil War hero father–to remote Point Bonita, a lighthouse post overlooking San Francisco Bay. Lonely and isolated at first, she’s also confused as to why the move was necessary and why her father seems ashamed of his role in the war. Emma soon meets other children–Harris, the son of a rancher, and Sue, the granddaughter of the ranch’s oldest worker–and they play at solving mysteries every day. Things turn serious when a boat washes into the cove, with raving, feverish boy Rascal Pratt inside. Rascal claims to be an infamous pirate, but his real origins are intertwined in the narrative with the stories of Sue’s grandfather ranch-hand Achilles, a Native American seeking his freedom, and the mystery of long-lost buccaneer treasure. Achilles is blind and unable to find the alleged long-lost booty of Sir Francis Drake that would let him buy his way out of bondage. Instead, he entrusts Rascal to find it for him. Rascal, initially distrustful of the other children, is forced to bond with them to find it and to secure his own freedom once his true origins are revealed. Scott’s tale manages to deftly tie together all these threads, incorporating a generous amount of historical detail and educational footnotes about different types of boats, vegetation and other trivia along the way. Scott generally avoids talking down to young readers, avoiding preachiness while exploring bigotry and military culture in America’s post-Civil War past.
A satisfying adventure for young readers, bucking fantasy trends in current Potter-obsessed lit to winning effect. (Fiction. YA)