Author: Conly, Jane Leslie
In the 1870s, Benjy, a boy from a wealthy Baltimore family, is kidnapped and forced to work on an oyster ship with a murderous captain.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.00
Points: 5.0 Quiz: 140355
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 4.50
Points: 11.0 Quiz: 53228
Common Core Standards
Grade 6 → Reading → RL Literature → 6.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 6 → Reading → CCR College & Career Readiness Anchor Standards fo
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Range of Reading & LEvel of Text Complexity
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 8 → Reading → RL Literature → 8.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 8 → Reading → RL Literature → 8.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → 5.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Kirkus Reviews (09/15/10)
School Library Journal (03/01/11)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (11/10)
The Hornbook (11/10)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 11/01/2010 Many, many unfortunate fictional boys have found themselves under the thumb of a ruthless sea captain, generally after either being kidnapped or impressed. Ben Orville, age fourteen, falls into the kidnapped category, rounded up with a bunch of German immigrants near the docks in 1882 Baltimore to toil on the oyster dredger Ella Daw under drunken, vicious Captain Henry Steele. The first and second mates, Plum and Hawk, seem nearly as terrifying as the captain, but as Ben is forcibly taught his new trade, he begins to realize that Plum and Hawk are the only hope for order aboard the ship. A group of the Germans make an escape one night, and they take Ben with them; he and a young man named Rolfe are the only survivors among the escapees, and as they rely on the kindness of strangers to make their laborious way back toward Baltimore, Rolfe is picked up by bounty hunters and Ben hastily finds employment on Captain John Mayer’s happier Disciple. He also, though, is eventually captured while ashore and returned to the now desperately undermanned Ella Daw, with its deranged captain and two very angry mates. Although Ben’s misadventures closely resemble those of other young literary seafarers, Conly individuates her protagonist’s story with well-drawn, scandal-infused details of the oyster industry, a distinctive narrative voice for Ben that recalls the tone of nineteenth-century adventure tales, and a taut plot thread that implicates Ben directly in a murder. Brevity-a boon to many reluctant or time-constrained readers-will make this easy to promote as a satisfying middle-school quick pick. EB - Copyright 2010 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 12/01/2010 “My world, like a china plate carelessly handled, was smashed in a thousand pieces.” In 1880s Baltimore, 14-year-old Benjamin Orville is finishing a routine errand for his mother when he is shanghaied onto an oyster schooner going out to sea and forced to become a crew member. As the months go by on the Ella Dawn, Ben adapts to the rough conditions even as he yearns for his family, and he also discovers a love for the water and life at sea. Unfortunately, he makes an enemy of the rickety fishing ship’s murderous captain, who has no regard for the life of his crew, leading to a bloody finale with few survivors. With compelling characters and details of the little-known process of oystering woven throughout, Conly’s tale touches on the hardships of many German immigrants to the U.S., whose desperate plights offer parallels to contemporary immigration issues. Short chapters and suspenseful plot twists will keep readers turning the pages in this engaging historical adventure. - Copyright 2010 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 03/01/2011 Gr 5–8—While on an errand for his mother, 14-year-old Benjamin is kidnapped along with a group of immigrants from the streets of Baltimore in 1868. When he wakes, he finds he is aboard an oyster ship, Ella Dawn, where he is expected to perform hard labor with little food. He comes from a fairly wealthy family, and has had an easy life. The captain is cruel, and Ben sees many men killed or thrown overboard. While he misses his family, he soon grows accustomed to the life and finds himself contemplating a future on the high seas. In order for that to happen, he has to find a way to make it off the ship alive. Conly does a decent job of pacing the novel with a mixture of danger and adventure. The story follows Ben in his effort to survive as his character grows and changes over the course of the novel. While a couple of slow spots exist, Murder Afloat has enough plot twists to keep readers involved.—Rebecca Webster, Warren County Middle School, Front Royal, VA - Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.