Captain of the Ship – Classics Volume 1
Age: Despite the capture of her father, I think that Caroline is appropriate for kids as young as 6, and of course as old as there is interest.
Parent Involvement: In book 1, I don’t see any major issues that would require parent involvement. I’d be comfortable letting my kid read Caroline alone.
Caroline is a 9-year-old girl living in Sackets Harbor, NY in 1812. The book opens to her, her father and cousins Lydia (12) and Oliver (19) sailing on Lake Ontario. When they reach Canadian waters, they are approached and boarded by the British Navy, who informed them that war had been declared and they were now prisoners. The British delivered Caroline and Lydia back to their homes, but kept the men hostage.
Caroline has the distressing job of telling her mother and grandmother what happened. Mama takes control of the management of her husband’s ship building business, revealing that before Caroline came along, she not only helped start the business and sail the ships, but she managed the financial side of the business, and is more than capable of picking up the slack in his absence. (Way to go, Mama!) Later, Mama decides she’s going to sail to Canada to try to get the British to free her husband. For some not entirely logical reason, she takes Caroline with her to the enemy fort, where Caroline tries to sneak in a secret message to help her father escape.
Caroline has to make some tough decisions and sacrifices to help the American soldiers defend Sackets Harbor, and even though it makes her sad, she is happy to help defend her home and country.
Caroline’s mother takes on a family of boarders, the wife and two daughters of an army officer, who travel with him from Albany to Sackets Harbor. The eldest daughter is 12-year-old Rhonda, who becomes both a friend and a bit of an antagonist to Caroline. Caroline struggles with deep jealousy when Rhonda’s father comes to visit her, while Caroline’s own father is still missing. Later, Caroline feels left out when her cousin Lydia and Rhonda become friends and Caroline feels she isn’t always included or listened to.
Caroline typically wants to do what she wants to do, and when her friends and family don’t agree with her, she has a tendency to either go do it anyway, or to force the issue. This especially comes out in regards to Rhonda and Lydia. Caroline wants to go ice skating, and wants all three of them to go ice skating, but Rhonda doesn’t enjoy ice skating and doesn’t want to go. Frustrated by her friend’s reluctance, Caroline gets Rhonda a pair of ice skates for Christmas so she’ll have no excuse to gracefully say no. There are several other examples of this behavior toward the end of the book. Eventually, all of her poor decisions and manipulative behavior culminates in getting herself into an extremely dangerous situation when thin ice she is standing on breaks away from the shelf and she is in danger of being washed away. Her friends had warned her, fought her and even attempted to physically prevent her from going onto the ice in that area, but Caroline thought she knew better, and in the end puts herself and her friends in a life-threatening situation for no real good reason.
After she’s back to safety, Caroline’s friends and family bring up all her unbecoming behavior (like the Ice Skates) and she admits that she was being selfish and immature instead of being a good friend / daughter. I do believe the message of Caroline seeing and admitting her fault and that she should take the warnings and ideas of other people more seriously (Because they might know more than her) was a good message, and well displayed between conversation and Caroline’s inner thoughts.
Overall, Captain of the Ship would be an enjoyable book for young readers, most of the potential trauma from the war and the view inside the british prison is very much glossed over, so I wouldn’t be concerned about very young kids enjoying and not having many questions or concerns about Caroline’s experiences in her first book.
Political/ Social influences behind the war of 1812
Caroline’s dad taken as Prisoner of War
Helping Mom manage home and business in Dad’s absence
Learning to be a good friend and take responsibility for mistakes (Later)
Grab your copy of Caroline Abbott – Captain of The Ship now!
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