The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition, 2004) is a sea adventure that will keep middle school aged boys and girls turning the pages.
At the age of twelve, Patience loses her beloved mother while her father, a whaling ship captain, is at sea. When he returns, he resolves to take Patience and her brother with him to sea, so keeping his family together. But Patience wants to remain in Nantucket and study math, at which she excels. Her little brother Tad, however, is ecstatic over the idea of going on the ship. The captain tries to employ his older sister, who runs a school for girls, to be their governess on the trip, but she refuses. Aunt Anne gives her niece a journal to record her journey and a sextant to help her navigate. Their cousin is the first mate, and he and others in the crew do their best to make the two children feel welcome while their father is busy setting sail.
As the story unfolds we see the ship, its operations, and ports of call through the eyes of a curious girl. Patience tries to do what is right, but often struggles with her temper. She is kind to her brother, and makes herself useful by both helping with navigation and baking biscuits and pies for the crew. Slowly her relationship with her father—who traveled for years at a time during her childhood—grows deeper. Patience as well as the other characters in this story are realistically portrayed with strengths and weaknesses. Children will relate to them.
In a furious storm, a valued crew member is washed overboard and the first mate’s leg is broken. Their cousin stays in port to heal, and a new mate is hired. Patience’s dislike of the new man is merited when he turns mutinous, marooning the captain, her brother, and all the loyal crew. Patience must find a way to retake the ship and navigate back to save her family before it is too late.
Details of whaling are described which may upset some readers, but they are based on historical facts of that era. There are elements of peril, but it feels a lot like the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys series in both reading level and suspense. Nothing is really terrifying and the reader feels as though all will end well.
The culture of that time and place is Christian, and there are references to scripture, prayer, and poetry that reflect this.
The author descended from New England mariners. She includes recipes baked on the voyage and a glossary of nautical terms.
I think middle school aged children will find this book a nice adventure. It is just over 200 pages in length. I found it at my local library. It is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.
Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.
Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.