Author(s): Peter and Connie Roop
Illustrator/Photographer: Thomas B. Allen
Publisher and Year: Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000
Number of pages: 42
Tags/Themes: Adventure, Animals, Chapter Book, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, Social Studies, 4-5, 6-8, Meagan DeSalvo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Descriptive Annotation: Laura is a nine year old girl in 1871 growing up on the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii. Her father is a whaler captain meaning that he spends months on ships hunting whales. This most recent trip is with the whole family because after they collect enough barrels of oil from the whales, the family will be living in New Bedford. This is set in the time when it was necessary to hunt whale to supply the oil even though many whale species grew to near extinction numbers. In any case, Laura and her family travel on the whaling ship, and Laura’s mother requires her to keep a daily journal to practice her writing skills. The stories are an honest look at life aboard the ship in the eyes of a nine year old. Laura tells of her day to day life including the not so glamorous meals they must eat, the cold weather, the dangers of the ice, death, and the whale hunting practices. At the very end, the family is forced to abandon their ship due to the dangerously high levels of ice. All of the diary entries are signed “Good-bye for today” but the last reads “Good-bye forever” as that it is her last entry before returning home.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: At the beginning of the book, there is a glossary of period terms that the reader may not be familiar with. While it is annoying to have to flip back to the beginning of the book when one of the terms comes up, the definitions are helpful. Each of the entries are written in the point of view of this nine year old girl. Plus each of the entries is dated so that it truly seems like students are reading diary entries. The end of the book also has an explanation of the book. The book is based off of two real whaling families who both had daughters and the one kept a journal. The author’s note also explains the necessity at the time for whaling therefore providing the historical significance of the book.
Interdisciplinary Connections: The ties in with the American whaling history directly. Another idea would be talking about conservation efforts and effects that hunting of animals or resources can have on the environment.
Other Information: It truly feels like the reader is reading a diary of a nine year old girl on a whaling ship. The readers are also provided with little sketches with some of the entries that even further enhance the diary feeling.