Tag Archives: nautical books


A stormy sea can lead to many different adventures, real, fictional or figurative. The following nautical novels, and a picturebook, have a shared focus, yet the authors present us with vastly different tales of the sea, adventure and exploration in different eras. 

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

Newbery award winning author Karen Hesse (Out of the Dust) has outdone herself in this novel. It’s been around for years but I had never read it before. Now love it! Based entirely in nonfiction, but written as a fictional diary, this book uses factual information such as the crew’s names and existing diaries including the one by Captain Cook himself. The author recreated the journey of the Endeavour. In 1767, 11-year-old Nicholas Young stowed away on the now famous ship, not knowing what would unfold. Cook’s three-year mission was secret: he was charged by the British Navy to search for a lost continent, believed to be located between the southern tip of South America and New Zealand. Young’s journal charts the voyage, with adventure unfolding in every port of call. This is the story of a true, great voyage of discovery seen through the eyes of a boy who was actually there. He learns about native populations, customs, foods, and sickness like scurvy and dysentery. The endpages show a global map of the entire journey. As you read, you realize what the world was like before global communications, even before having an actual map of a place. ISBN 0-689-83989-8, Aladdin Paperbacks

The Last Mapmaker by Newbery Honor author Christina Soontornvat is a wonderful read for young adventurers. The map on the first page of this book shows the fictional land and the seas where Sai lives. She is apprentice to a mapmaker and hopes to climb the ladder in her society to escape the slums where her pick-pocketing father and she live. Unexpected adventure whisks her away aboard a sail ship to the fabled Sunderlands. Do dragons truly live there? And what is the impact explorers have on “new found” lands and their environment? A fascinating blend of fantasy with a sprinkle of historic fiction, adventure and the following of passion. A great page turner that shows girls that they can be anything they wish. ISBN 978-1-5362-0495-7, Candlewick Press

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr is another fabulous journey into a magical land that will make you want to explore. Nim has lost her mother but she and her scientist father settle on a tropical island where she has all the freedom to explore. 

This adventure is a modern Robinson Crusoe tale in the era of e-mail. Nim can chop down bananas with a machete, climb palm trees, and start a fire with a piece of glass. So she’s not worried when her scientist dad sails off to study plankton for a few days, leaving her alone on their island. Besides, Nim has a sea lion to watch out for her and an iguana to keep her company. She is also inspired by a real life hero, an author/book character with whom she has an interesting e-mail connection. When her father’s cell-phone calls stop coming and disaster seems near, Nim has to be stronger and braver than she’s ever been before. With the help of the author they both overcome fears and discover their own strengths. This book is a wonderful classroom read-aloud choice or a book to inspire (girl) adventurers. 

• Nim’s Island, 978-0440418689, Yearling • Rescue At Sea and • Return to Nim’s Island were followed the movie Nim’s Island, featuring Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler.

Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, with art by Rashin Kheiriyeh is a different boat story.

When you have no home, when you are walking or sailing towards a new place, ‘here’ is a different concept. This is an imaginative, lyrical picture book about the migrant experience through a child’s eyes. ‘Here’ is home and ‘here’ changes all the time. When a little girl and her younger brother are forced along with their family to flee the home they’ve always known, they learn to make a new home for themselves — wherever they are. And sometimes the smallest things – a cup, a blanket, a story – become a port of hope in a terrible storm. As the refugees travel onward toward an uncertain future, they are buoyed up by their hopes, dreams and the stories they tell — a story that will carry them forward. ISBN 978-0-7352-6359-8, Tundra

Margriet Ruurs likes sailing the seas with good adventure stories. She is available for author visits to international schools.