170. The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed

The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed by Heather Vogel Frederick

Pages: 213
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sep.18, 2009
First Published: 2002
Genre: historical fiction, children
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"Absolutely, positively not!" roared my father in a voice meant to be heard through the teeth of a Cape Horn gale.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 9yo to go along with our history studies.

Comments: When 13yo Patience and 6yo Thadeus's father returns from sea he is determined to take them along with him when he next sets sail. Patience's mother has died while Father was away and being Captain of a Nantucket whaler means he spends more time on sea than land, and now Captain Goodspeed is determined to keep his family together. An extremely reluctant Patience and exuberant Tad soon set sail for a 3 year trip. Patience's reluctance mainly stems from her mother's promise that she may continue her mathematical studies with Maria Mitchell, but her father denies her this for the sake of family unity. What follows is a rip-roaring, seafaring adventure filled with storms, nasty and friendly crew members, whaling, mutiny and sorrow.

This was a fabulous book! At first I wondered whether my son would enjoy it, wondering whether it would be a "girl's" book, but I heartily say "Nay!". This book appeals strongly to both boys and girls. The book is written in Patience's voice with occasional entries from her diary. The author has used an authentic mid-1800's speech pattern and vocabulary which truly brings the setting to life though does take a chapter or two to get used to at first (especially when reading out loud). This is one of the best books my son has enjoyed as a read-aloud; he was so involved in this story: hanging on the edge of his seat, yelling out to the characters, coming up with plans for what was going to happen next.

Also, my son is on the Autistic Spectrum and this is the very first book that has made him cry. I was tearing up a bit myself at the same part and when I finished the chapter and looked up there he was with his face in the pillow, he looks at me with tear stained face and says "That's so sad!" It is hard for him to feel other's emotions but this part (I won't give it away!) struck him as a feeling he could have, and thus he felt for the characters. It was quite a moment!

Patience is a strong female character. Though probably not typical of the era, she is not utterly unusual either, i.e. the references to Maria Mitchell. In private she fights about her limitations as a girl but in public she is respectful of her superiors as a female (especially a well-bred child) would be in that day and age. The rest of the characters are a colourful lot with the bad bad and the good good and no grey characters or showing sympathy for the bad ones, which I do prefer to see in books for this age group. The book also contains a fair dose of humour and when we weren't caught up in the action we were having a good laugh. Highly recommended for both boys and girls!

There is a sequel, The Education of Patience Goodspeed, which I intend to read sometime but from it's summary it appears to be coming-of-age story partially set in a girl's boarding school, making it not something the 9yob would enjoy. So I'll save it as a read-alone for myself later.

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  1. It's reviews like this that make me have a window open to my Paperback Swap account while going through the posts in my Google Reader. Thanks!

  2. Oh, that book sounds adorable! I will need to add it to my TBR list. Especially excited that Patience is a strong female character - there aren't enough of those!

  3. Cathy - I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

    Court - I find with historical fiction children's books that often times the author makes the female character strong but then they make her into a 21st century girl rather than a part of her own era. This author has done a very good job of keeping Patience both a strong and 19th century girl at the same time.

  4. thanks for this review. I'm always looking for engaging books to read aloud to my 8 yr old son.


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