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Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen Hardcover – May 19, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—The year is 1663, and motherless 12-year-old Petra escapes her once well-to-do abusive alcoholic father by stowing away on a merchant ship bound for the East Indies from her home in Amsterdam. She is discovered and befriended by Bram, an illegitimate boy of mixed-race heritage whose mother was Javanese and whose father was a Dutch sailor. Petra secretly assists Bram with his daily tasks such as weaving rope, making repairs, and organizing supplies. The boy is hoping that if he works hard, the ship's captain will sign papers that make him a "legal son" and that will allow him to set foot on European land. The story is told in alternating points of view from each of these unique perspectives. Disguised as a boy, Petra eventually boldly exposes herself to the crew, using her sewing skills to assist with an emergency surgery. After being keelhauled as punishment for being onboard, Petra continues to work alongside the ship's doctor. Yohalem's thorough research, authentic nautical jargon, and sailors' dialect brings this riveting tale to life. Likable characters and rich historical detail from daily food and drink to the elaborate hierarchy of the ship's crew to how to use a "butt-broom" make this a believable tale. Adventures abound as Petra and Bram struggle through raging storms, rollicking battles with pirates, and deadly bouts of disease. Plots of mutiny heighten tensions and divide loyalties, and Bram and Petra are both dangerously caught in the middle, fighting for survival and a place to call home. VERDICT Pair this book with Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1990) or Karen Hesse's Stowaway (2001, both Scholastic). A thoroughly satisfying high seas adventure.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
"The story brims with luscious detail...This novel has all the required elements to appeal to zealous historical-adventure buffs." –Kirkus Reviews
"An absorbing, informative read." –Publishers Weekly
"Riveting...A thoroughly satisfying high seas adventure." –School Library Journal
"Young teen readers who like authenticity in their historical fiction will find life on ship in the seventeenth century vividly detailed." –Voya
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Top customer reviews
Readers will end the book having read a great story, and knowing something about an important part of world history. If you ask "how could I introduce teens to the history of the Dutch mercantile empire and world trade" -- without getting them to roll their eyes dismissively-- "Cast Off" is the right answer.
Pros: While more of a middle school book, good fifth grade readers will enjoy this non-stop adventure. It would also make an exciting read aloud.
Cons: Pretty much every aspect of life for anyone living in the 17th century who wasn’t wealthy, white, and male.
Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen depicts life on a 17th century Dutch sailing ship in detail while telling a story of friendship and survival. Petra is used to hard work, but life on the ship will test her in new ways. She has to navigate living next to rats, eating meager rations, learning to climb up into the crow’s nest, and helping the ship’s surgeon tend to the sick and injured—all without giving away that she’s a girl.
Bram’s father is Dutch but his mother is Javanese, and as a mixed raced child he’s not allowed on shore in The Netherlands. With the recommendation of the captain, he may be able to earn the legitimacy he longs for. But talk of mutiny has him questioning whether his loyalties lie with the crew he works with or the captain in charge.
With the challenges they face, the friendship between Petra and Bram soon becomes the only thing they can count on.
Cast Off is a historical adventure that shines light on what life was like for cast offs and misfits in the early 1600s. It was a time when children had few options without the protection of legitimacy and loving parents. The action never stops and it is sure to satisfy adventurous girls and boys aged 10 and up.
The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.