Thursday, June 11, 2015

2001 Honor - The Wanderer

Since I mostly focus on the gold award seal rather than the silver "honor" designation, I almost passed this book up at the Goodwill Thrift store where it was shelved. But then I saw it was written by previous Newbery Award Winner Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons). I knew that it had to be delightful and tantalizing, the secrets of the story gradually unfolding at just the right moments.

I was not disappointed.

I finally got around to reading it, and only put it down because it got too late to read, and then I finished it this morning.

The Wanderer is the name of a Uncle Dock's sailboat. He and his two brothers have fixed it up and are going to sail to England, taking along two of their boys. Sophie persuades her mother, Uncle Dock's sister, to let her go along with them. The three children are all about the same age, thirteen. Sophie and Cody each keep a ship's log, which is the way the book is written.

For such a sizable cast of main characters; Uncle Dock, Uncle Mo, Uncle Stew, Brian, Cody, and Sophie, they quickly become memorable for their personalities and quirks. That makes it an easy process to dive into the story without having to leaf back to see "Now which one was that uncle?" Enough attention is given to them so they do not seem too shallow, but not so much to keep from focusing on Sophie, whose story unfolds against the background of the others.

At first it seems like a pretty straightforward adventure book. Will the boat ever get the final kinks worked out? Will the shakedown trip go all right? Will they get lost in the fog? How bad will that storm get? But tidbit by tidbit, the reader finds the heart of the story lies in Sophie's past and how she is dealing with her past trauma.

The author lets the two main characters in the story, Sophie and Cody, tell the tale in their own words. Done skillfully, like in this book, the first person view can be a superior storytelling method. Many books that switch off between the "I's" seem jarring and clunky to me, almost like the author can't manage to convey what is happening with the other characters without resorting to the switcheroo. But The Wanderer makes it seem like a bonus rather than a crutch to see events from Cody's thoughts and feelings along with Sophie's, the main protagonist.

I got this book at the thrift store for less than a buck. I always enjoy inscriptions in used books. This one says, "Keep reading Baylee! Love, Mrs. Imes, May '04" I know that children grow up and get rid of their childhood books, but I like to think that teachers like Mrs. Imes (whoever and wherever she is) would be pleased to know that their gifts keep on giving!

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