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Revenge of The Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex (Boston Globe-Horn Book Honors (Awards)) Hardcover – September 16, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For older readers, Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick describes a tale worthy of Ahab: on November 20, 1820, an angry sperm whale took vengeance on the men who would slay it for oil. Adapted from Philbrick's bestselling title for adults, In the Heart of the Sea, the narrative draws from primary sources, including the account of cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, who joined the crew at age 14. Ages 7-12.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-10-Philbrick has carefully adapted and abridged his adult title, In the Heart of the Sea (Viking, 2000). He tells the story of the Nantucket whaleship Essex, which sank in the Pacific in November 1820, after being deliberately rammed twice by an apparently enraged sperm whale. Three months later, five emaciated men were rescued from two small boats filled with the bones of their unlucky companions. The whale's attack on the Essex gave Herman Melville the idea for the climactic scene in Moby-Dick. The abridging is primarily accomplished by limiting descriptive passages and focusing more tightly on the narrative elements. However, sufficient description is retained to give readers an understanding of both whaling and life in Nantucket in the early 19th century. Other than these elisions, the text is largely unchanged from the original, although in a few places a simpler synonym replaces a more evocative word; likewise, in passages where he had assumed background knowledge, Philbrick skillfully supplies context and explanation. The lengthy section of notes following the text has been omitted, and the extensive bibliography has been replaced by a short, briefly annotated list of related reading. Useful maps, diagrams, and other illustrations have been retained. The story of the Essex crew is a compelling saga of desperation and survival that will appeal to young people. The grisly details of cannibalism necessary to the telling of the story may provoke shivers but should not give anyone nightmares. Walter Brown's Sea Disasters (HarperCollins, 1981) includes a brief chapter on the Essex, but there is nothing else for young readers on the subject. With this masterful adaptation, Philbrick's work fills a void.
Elaine Fort Weischedel, Franklin Public Library, MA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 4 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1170L (What's this?)
  • Series: Boston Globe-Horn Book Honors (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile; First Edition edition (September 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039923795X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399237959
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nathaniel Philbrick
Life at a Glance

1956 in Boston, Mass.

Linden Elementary School and Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, Pa.; BA in English from Brown University in Providence, RI, and an MA in America Literature from Duke University in Durham, NC

Philbrick was Brown's first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978; that year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI; today he and his wife Melissa sail their Beetle Cat Clio and their Tiffany Jane 34 Marie-J in the waters surrounding Nantucket Island.

Melissa Douthart Philbrick, who is an attorney on Nantucket. They have two children: Jennie, 23, and Ethan 20.

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during which time he wrote/edited several sailing books, including Yaahting: A Parody (1984), for which he was the editor-in-chief; during this time he was also the primary caregiver for his two children. After moving to Nantucket in 1986, he became interested in the history of the island and wrote Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People. He was offered the opportunity to start the Egan Maritime Foundation in 1995, and in 2000 he published In the Heart of the Sea, followed by Sea of Glory, in 2003, and Mayflower, due in May 2006.

Awards and Honors
In the Heart of the Sea won the National Book Award for nonfiction; Revenge of the Whale won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; Sea of Glory won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society. Philbrick has also received the Byrne Waterman Award from the Kendall Whaling Museum, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for distinguished service from the USS Constitution Museum, the Nathaniel Bowditch Award from the American Merchant Marine Museum, and the William Bradford Award from the Pilgrim Society.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#23 in Books > History
#23 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
This story has to be one of the most astonishing tales of survival in recorded history. Before I say more, let me caution you that this story (and parts of this review) is not for those with weak stomachs.

After their ship is disabled by an attacking sperm whale, the survivors find themselves on three open boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean over 2,000 miles from their targeted landfall in South America. With luck, they will make it in 30 days. They soon find themselves in a stall as the winds fail to cooperate, except to provide severe storms that threaten to capsize the boats.

Soon, all the food is encrusted with salt and everyone is suffering with severe dehydration. Then things start to get worse! I won't go further, but you have an amazing story of survival ahead of you.

Two of the few survivors of this terrible ordeal later committed their experiences to writing, which provide great resources for this well-researched book.

At another level, the book is also extremely interesting because these experiences were important influences on Herman Melville's writing of the American classic, Moby Dick. The book makes the connection, including how Melville came to learn the story.

At a third level, the book is a fascinating history of whaling around 1920. If you are like me, you will cringe when the whalers devastate island after island. But that's not the limit to their willingness to use nature to their own advantage.

The ultimate irony is that the survivors went the wrong way. Those from Nantucket did not know about Tahiti and Hawaii, and chose not to go in either of those directions -- either of which would have provided more rapid safety and comfort.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
A monster of a whale is bent on the destruction of your boat. What do you do? This is the decision the crew of the whale ship Essex has to make. Told through the journals and accounts of two surviving crew members the true tale of Moby Dick is detailed and interesting.

Will the crew survive? Will they be able to eat fish and birds or will they have to resort to eating each other? Will they ever find their way back to civilization? Will they be able to conquer their hunger and thirst and ration their supplies or will they give in to temptation and finish off all of them?

Join Nathaniel Philbrick in this tale of survival and woe in the descriptive story of the Essex's crew's endurance and anguish.

Author's Note: Although this review makes the book sound exciting and suspenseful, it focuses on the finer points. Most of the book is descriptions of everyday life and has no suspense or excitement whatsoever. While this book is very informative if you have any need to learn about whaling, it is somewhat boring and I would not recommend it to anyone. If you are looking for suspense or excitement I suggest you read The Alex Rider Adventures by Anthony Horowitz or The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Thank you for reading this review, I hope that it was helpful.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
Revenge of the Whale is about a whaleship journey, with the ship Essex. Captain George Pollard faces many mysterious, and fatal incidents with two different kinds of whales, and many different kinds of weather. This whaleship sailed out of Nantuckett, MA to find only one resource...oil. But they've come across more than just oil, but tragedy along with it.

My personal favorite part of the book is when the crew first sees land in months. I liked this part of the book becuase, it gave me a great essence of releif. I also liked this part of the book becuase, it showed that God gave the crew mercy, something they've always needed. The last reason I liked this book is becuase, I was thinking about what the job description to be a whaler if they told the applicant everything, " You may find yourself eating your best friend, starving to death, dieing of thirst, and drinking the blood of turtles.

I reccommend this book to only a mature audience becuase, little kids would certainly not appreciate this incredible historical story. There is also some confusing and misleading parts of this book that young people wouldnt care for or understand. This story may also bring fear to a small child of the ocean or whales. Once again, mature audiences only!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tobias, Son of Floyd on December 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
As a Children's Librarian I picked this book up in an effort to get 6-8th grade boys to read something other than Goosebumps. Having seen the movie Moby Dick, and reading that this book is the true story that inspired Melville to write that book, I have to admit I also wanted to read this book.

(At the time I was unaware of Philbrick's "In the Heart of the Sea" which was written with an older audience in mind)

The book is written with teens and young adults in mind. What impressed me with the book was the way Philbrick took the time to describe life aboard a whaler in a way that non-nautical types would understand.

If you have no knowledge of whaling in the early 1800s, I'd suggest picking up this book rather than tackling Philbrick's "In the Heart of the Sea" If you've already read "In The Heart of the Sea" thsi book will be a disappointment.

From the beginning, of the book you get the feeling that things are not going to go well. What will amaze people unfamiliar with the story is just how bad things get!

In all, however the story becomes one of sacrifice, survival and faith in not only others but of God. The book is a welcome collection for any middle school's historical fiction collection and quick read for any adult interested 19th century high seas adventure.

If you are an adult who is already familiar with the whale ship Essex or have read other books in this genre then go straight for In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex and skip this book. You'll be disappointed.
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