The year is 1895 and young Nathan Williams wants nothing more than to be a "storm warrior," one of the brave men of the U.S. Lifesaving Service on Pea Island, off the North Carolina shore. Again and again, Nathan has helped the team rescue frightened sailors from floundering ships during the winter storm season. But Nathan's father is a fisherman, and he expects Nathan to be the same. After all, Pea Island is the single station open to African American surfmen, and the precious few jobs are passed from father to son. Still, Nathan is coached in lifesaving skills by the Pea Island crew and dares to hope that one day he may share in their ranks. But after helping with a particularly difficult rescue, Nathan is forced to face the truth: "In that moment I knew, without a shred of doubt, that I did not have the courage to risk my life that way. The dream, and all the months of hoping, blew away as quickly as the foam off the waves." After a close friend makes clear the obvious, Nathan realizes that there are other ways to save lives and discovers his true destiny.
With Storm Warriors, Elisa Carbone has illuminated a fascinating corner of history that is both exciting and meaningful. The novel, based on real people and actual shipwrecks, will be devoured by fans of true adventure stories such as Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and Jennifer Armstrong's Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. (Ages 11 and older) --Jennifer Hubert
From Publishers Weekly
Carbone (Stealing Freedom) bases her inspiring and little-known tale on actual rescues made by seven courageous African-Americans during the late 1800s on Pea Island, on the Outer Banks of N.C. The island acted as the base for a division of the United States Life-Saving Service (precursor to the Coast Guard). Twelve-year-old narrator Nathan lives close to the station with his grandfather and widower father, both fishermen who often assist in the rescues. From the outset, Nathan outlines the cause of racial tension between the Pea Island crewmen and the nearby Oregon Inlet crewmen ("Grandpa says they have the same surnames because back before the war the granddaddies and great-granddaddies of the Oregon Inlet crew used to own the granddaddies and great-granddaddies of the Pea Island crew, and they shared their family names with their slaves") and sets the stage for several incidents that discourage the boy's dream of someday joining Pea Island's Life-Saving crew, the only such crew manned by African-Americans. Yet the determined boy pores over books he finds in the station's library, learning about rescue procedures and first aid, proves himself a competent helper in sea rescues and eventually finds his own calling. Though a surfeit of detail occasionally encumbers the story's pace and weakens its impact, Carbone includes some suspenseful descriptions of the rescue crew's feats, and the affecting passages between Nathan and his loving grandfather are the novel's greatest strength. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)
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