cover image Victory


Susan Cooper, . . S&S/McElderry, $16.95 (196pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-1477-8

In alternating chapters, Newbery Medalist Cooper (The Dark Is Rising ) tells the stories of 11-year-old Molly, a contemporary homesick Londoner transplanted to the U.S. because of her mother's remarriage, and Sam, also 11, a 19th-century ship's boy aboard the HMS Victory . Sam also has a new home—he's been pressed into service by the Royal Navy and assigned to kitchen duties on Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson's battleship. Initially, the connection between these two children, disparate in time, circumstance and locale, seems tenuous—tied only by a biography of Nelson that Molly buys from a bookstore. But when Molly finds a historical artifact hidden inside the book, she begins having strange visions about Sam, his ship and the brutal sea battles of the Napoleonic Wars. These images resurrect lost memories of her late father, whose plane plunged into the Atlantic years earlier. Cooper tells Molly's story in present-tense, third-person narration, then switches to past-tense, first-person for Sam's chapters, a stylistic choice that makes the stories distinct but the shift between them jarring. While Molly's upheaval is emotionally rendered, Sam's tale bogs down in period detail about the workaday grind of seamanship. The resolution relies on an improbable coincidence to bring the two stories together, but provides a hopeful future for Molly. Ages 9-12. (July)