Stowaway. Hesse, Karen. 2000

Stowaway. Hesse, Karen. 2000

Hesse, Karen. 
Margaret K. Mc-Elderry Books.
ISBN 0-689-83987-1.

A fictional history aimed at the 10-14 age group, this book is based on the figure of Nicholas Young who was taken on the strength of the Endeavour on 18th April 1769 at Tahiti but about whom nothing is known prior to that date.

The author creates an earlier history leading to the boy becoming a stowaway whose hiding place is known to three of the crew but unrevealed until the vessel has left Madeira. The story is told in the format of a diary/journal written by Nicholas and maintains an accurate historical and chronological story of the voyage as might well have been experienced by young Nick. His accounts of 18th century shipboard life are well told and reveal the gradual development from landlubber to experienced sailor during the three year voyage as well as adding a youngster's vivid pictures of the many sights and sounds of exotic places and people.

The personalities of some of those crew members with whom Nick comes into regular contact are skilfully portrayed throughout so the reader becomes very much an ally of Nick, anxious at times for his wellbeing and enjoying his elements of success.

Karen Hesse has created a highly commendable book, and though not the first to base a story on the character of Nicholas Young, for Josephine Kamm's He went with Captain Cook published in 1952, preceded this, the diary format creates a very different tale. This volume is also strengthened by the addition of a detailed listing of the ship's company; the ship's itinerary, and a useful glossary. The quality of the printing and production, together with a very attractive dust jacket, enhance the volume but I cannot equally commend the style of the black and white drawings which leaves something to be desired. The reproduction on the end papers of a map of the world printed in Boston c. 1800 is useful and attractive but still leaves one wondering why a map showing the route of the Endeavour was not also included.

I greatly enjoyed my reading, even though I am well beyond the age group aimed for by the author ! This may of course have something to do with being knowledgeable of the background for, having asked my 13 year old grand-daughter to read the book she reported enjoyment but not to the extent of recommending the book to her friends as a "must read" category. It may be a more appealing story to boys than girls, but without doubt it certainly proved enjoyable and appealing to this Cook devotee of more mature years and I would heartily recommend it.

Alwyn Peel

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1856, volume 24, number 3 (2001).

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