From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4 - During the winter of 1778, while the colonies were still at war with England, John Adams and his 10-year-old son made an uncomfortable transatlantic crossing on the Boston
in an effort to enlist French support for the struggling American cause. Fears and predictions of danger materialized in the form of encounters with British ships and a huge storm. Although Johnny is the cameo character, it is through many of John Adams's own thoughts as revealed through his actual diary that readers get a glimpse of the threats and hardships endured during their voyage. While Johnny's experience can stand alone as an adventure story, having at least a rudimentary familiarity with the American Revolution would enhance children's appreciation for why the boy and his father were taking such risks. Some of the vocabulary, particularly passages from Adams's diary, may require adult help, but for the most part, the text is fairly easy, and the map and watercolor illustrations support it well. The masterful watercolor paintings not only depict the action but also show period clothing and nautical surroundings from many interesting perspectives. This is engaging historical fiction with illustrations that truly bring the story to life. Pair it with Jan Cheripko's Caesar Rodney's Ride
(Boyds Mills, 2004) to explore travel during colonial times as well as the self-sacrifice and bravery of America's founders. - Lynda Ritterman, Atco Elementary School, Waterford, NJ
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Gr. 2-4. In 1778, 10-year-old John Quincy Adams and his father, John Adams, crossed the Atlantic on the frigate Boston.
Based on the elder Adams' diary, the episodic story includes everything from storms and the threat of battle to seasickness. John observes a Portuguese man-of-war hauled up from the sea in a bucket and endless days of "Nothing but Sky, Clouds, and Sea." Finally, the Adams reach the French coast. Harlin's richly atmospheric paintings dramatize scene after scene with subtle hues and lighting effects as well as a sure sense of composition that articulates quiet moments and perilous ones with equal conviction. Written in third person, except for the occasional quote from the actual diary, the story offers a stirring account of life aboard ship, spiced with details from the voyage. An appended author's note comments on the story's source and the illustrious careers of the two Adamses. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved