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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dare the Wind, written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"Then, every chance she could, she navigated Papa's schooner beyond the rocky arms of Marblehead Harbor. She practiced until she could find her way far out to sea with no landmarks to guide her. She practiced until she had the sunburned cheeks and wide step of a seasoned sailor."

Ellen Prentiss was not expected to be interested in sailing. No girl in the early 1800s was. She loved her father's trading boat and was keen to learn everything that she could learn about it. Many accomplished sailors did not know all that Captain Prentiss taught his daughter about sailing. His knowledge of navigation was immense; his daughter learned with great earnestness.

When she married Perkins Creesy, the two embarked on ocean adventures that took them around the world and back home. Perkins captained their boats while Ellen managed the navigation. A new ship offered further challenges when the two were hired to take passengers from New York to San Francisco and the gold rush, and to do it in double quick time. Encouraged to try to make the fastest trip around Cape Horn, they set off.

The Flying Cloud was well equipped to make the quickest possible journey. It did, however, require the knowledge that Ellen had garnered, her well planned routes, and her innate ability to read the changing sea and winds. A new record was established!

I am a big fan of Tracey Fern's previous work, and she does not disappoint with this powerful story of a woman who dared to defy the expectations of women of the time, who learned well the lessons her father taught, and who dared the wind to get in her way as she made good on her life's work. Her ability to tell another rollicking story is evident and will inspire her audience to want to know more about

Emily Arnold McCully uses ink and watercolors brilliantly for this ocean voyage...her blues and greens are filled with light and life. She uses all manner of navigational images to show her characters in their element, and fills her artwork with motion and changing horizons so that we feel as if we are partaking of the ocean journeys with Ellen and Perkins. Adding a glossary, suggestions for further reading, an author’s note and a map of the voyage on the book's endpapers will inspire interested readers to look beyond its pages.

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