Finished: Dec. 27, 2010
First Published: May 13, 2010
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's SonsGenre: children, historical fiction, seafaring, war
Gentlemen, this is Jack Hoynton - the new crewman assigned to us.
Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter Library Loan.
Reason for Reading: This is a Cybils '10 nominee and required reading for me as a graphic novels panellist.
This book is a bit unique in its presentation. First, it is oversized like a picture book. Then it tells a fictional tale about life aboard a mid-size ship during the Napoleonic Wars. Jack is a 12 yo orphan (mostly) who is sent to work in the navy and this ship's job is to patrol the waters protecting England from French invasion. They meet up with more than they expected when they come across a hidden French boatyard and are attacked by a French Man-o-War and betrayed by a spy amongst them. While the story is fictional each page has a sidebar with non-fiction information relating to information found on that page. These tidbits of trivia range from definitions of items such as a "frigate" or "bosun" to describing in further detail concepts such as "impressment" or "Beat to Quarters" to more detailed histories of "relations between the Irish and English" or "how the French Army conscription workers".
The story itself is entertaining and makes wide use of various differing frames from full page to tall thin rectangles to the occasional circle. I found the non-fiction information more entertaining than the story, though. But my main problem was that the sidebars consistently interrupted the flow of the story. I recommend reading the story straight through the first time ignoring the sidebars just to be able to enjoy the action-packed story of a boy third class's life aboard ship and a battle at sea during the Napoleonic Wars. Then go back a second time reading the sidebars either alone or as you re-read the story for the non-fiction historical aspect.
I'm not sure how well this book would do as one kids would choose for themselves, but it would be perfect used in the classroom or homeschool and is certainly a library recommended have.