From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–Modern-day Molly, 11, understands that her family had to move from Connecticut to London because of her stepfather's job, but she's still achingly homesick. Sam, also 11, lives in England in 1803, until he's forced into several years' service on the H.M.S. Victory
under Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson. The boy eventually grows to enjoy many things about life in this small city of people in one floating wooden frame. Molly finds a scrap of the Victory
's flag tucked into an old book about Nelson and begins to experience bits of Sam's memories. The children's stories alternate as Sam's memories help Molly come to terms with the loss of her childhood home and the death, years earlier, of her father. The mystery behind the flag and Molly's haunting by Sam drive the girl's narrative, while a prologue hinting at Sam's participation in the great Battle of Trafalgar propels his along to climactic scenes of the battle itself. His descriptions of 1800s naval warfare are both fascinating (the technology) and horrible (the stench, earsplitting noise, and the utter carnage of cannonballs hitting ships full of unarmored men and boys). Hesitant, loving efforts by Molly's family to help her cope with her unhappiness and Nelson's small kindnesses to Sam bring secondary characters to life. They also advance the parallel emotional stories underlying the novel about the difficulty of leaving a beloved place and the way new connections help a strange environment become home.–Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT
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*Starred Review* Gr. 4-7. Thirteen-year-old Molly, who has recently moved from present-day London to Connecticut with her family, longs for home. While visiting a bookstore, she is drawn to an edition of Robert Southey's Life of Nelson
, which has an unusual artifact secreted inside. In alternating chapters, Cooper tells a second story, set in the early 1800s, about an 11-year-old English lad, Sam, who is captured by a press gang and taken to serve on HMS Victory.
Two years later, wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar, Sam tends dying Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson. In the present-day narrative, Molly returns to England for a week and visits the restored Victory
. Overcome by powerful sensations, she finds herself channeling Sam's experiences during the fateful battle. Later, Molly realizes the nature of the tie between herself and Sam and what she must do to set things right for both of them. Cooper uses a present-tense, third-person narrative to tell Molly's story, while Sam's unfolds in past-tense, first-person reflections. Both tales are so involving that readers will find themselves reluctant to let go of one narrator and switch to the other at a chapter's end. Seamlessly weaving details of period seamanship into the narrative, Cooper offers a vivid historical tale within the framework of a compelling modern story. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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