Friday, November 23, 2007

The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed

By Reviewer ShawnaTitle: The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed
Author: Heather Vogel Frederick
CBA or ABA? ABA (American Book Association)
Primary Audience/age group: 9 – 12 yrs. Old
Genre: Historical Adventure
# Of pages: 213
Year of Release: 2002
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 2
Rating: 3 (see below)

Description: After the passing of their mother, thirteen year old Patience Goodspeed and her younger brother Tad are uprooted from their Nantucket home life in order to join their father, Captain Isaiah Goodspeed, on his whaling ship, the Morning Star. Patience reluctance to embrace this lifestyle slowly turns to enthusiasm as the bond between she and her father grows. But when mutiny threatens the lives of her father and brother, Patience must gather the courage to save them and as well as herself.

Review: This story was a unique blend of fiction and history about living aboard a whaling ship in the late 1800s. The author did well with her research about the time period and even included a glossary of terms from the era. I thought it was going to be a little more adventurous but the pace did not pick up until the last third of the book. Although it’s not my favorite pre-teen book, it does have a good message about restoring relationships between parents and their children.

Positive: The story begins with the rocky relationship between Patience and her father but ends with a good message about forgiveness and the importance of family. At first, Isaiah is unable to express his love of his children to them, and Patience is in desperate need of his acceptance. But, he soon reveals his heart to her and expresses his admiration of her mathematical skills by allowing her to learn how to navigate the ship, which comes in handy when she needs to rescue her father and brother.

Spiritual Elements: There are a few instances where the “fates” are mentioned and an example being Patience thinking “how cruel the fates to take Mama.” There is also mention of the children taking a Bible on board for study as well as them being instructed to learn the story of Noah. A passage out of Psalms is quoted at the funeral of one of the shipmates. A favorite aunt writes a letter in which she prays that “the good Lord keeps them safe.” Isaiah Goodspeed gives thanks to the Almighty when the lives of himself and other crew members are spared during a whaling incident. The book ends with Patience writing a prayer to God for clear skies and good weather.

Violence: The story takes place on a whaling ship where whales are hunted for their blubber. The killing of the whales and the retrieval of the blubber and oil is described in some detail with a couple mentions of blood and the cutting up of the animals. In one instance the men are described as looking like demons with their faces and clothes covered with soot and blood.

Some legends are told about a whale attacking a ship and the crew surviving on “the flesh of their companions.” Another story is mentioned where some crew members take over a ship and murder the captain and three mates.

Tad, Patience’s six year old brother, is hung overboard with a rope around his waist by two villainous crew members, Binyon and Todd, and dunked repeatedly. No harm physical harm comes to him though.

During a violent storm at sea, a sailor is thrown overboard and is unable to be rescued. They hold a funeral for him afterward. An injured whale attacks two whaling boats, smashing one in two and flipping the other. Several crew members are injured but not killed.

The ship is taken over by the same two characters and a third man named Bridgewater, who use guns and a cutting spade to threaten the others. They separate Captain Isaiah and Tad from Patience by deserting them along with other crew members on an island. Patience dreams of retribution by wanting to hang Bridgewater, feed him to the sharks, or send him straight to the devil. Spoiler Warning: She and the other crew members concoct a scheme to drug Bridgewater to take back the ship. One crew member, Chips, injures himself on purpose to aid with the plan. They poison the biscuits to temporarily put Bridgewater to sleep. The remaining original crew on the ship use force to overpower the three traitors. Then, Patience suggests they teach Binyon and Todd a lesson by hanging them overboard the same way they did her brother.

Language: There was mention of some of the crew “cussing,” but no expletives were used. There were several times where Patience and Tad call the villainous crew members names, example Bunion and Toad for Binyon and Todd.

Sexual Content: none

Other: At their first encounter, Patience describes Binyon and Todd as smelling like they had been “pickled in a vat of rum.” After Binyon and Todd hang Tad overboard, they are caught and apologize. Patience promises not to tell her father what they did, but soon regrets this.

Rating: 3 for moderate violence. See here for full rating scale.

Recommendation: This book would be more appropriate for older pre-teens (11 -12) but maybe not for those children who are particularly squeamish. The book was a bit violent as far as describing the typical life of a sailor on a whaleboat. But, it remained true to the historical context of that type of lifestyle. I did not like the fact Patience sought to take vengeance on the three traitors. I think I would discuss the importance of forgiveness with my child.