Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Stormstruck by John Macfarlane

All through junior high and high school I was a member of a Boy Scout troop- A Sea Scout troop to be precise. We learned a lot about knots, basic navigation, clouds and we bonded through camps and other adventures. More than anything though, the life lessons have stuck with me all through life. There is something about leaving the confines of land in a small craft at the mercy of the elements that builds teamwork, character and camaraderie.

Stormstruck is written by John Macfarlane, an ex-Navy serviceman. In it a headstrong boy called Sam determines to save his faithful pooch Pogo from a certain death by making a sea journey. As you would expect. things soon go awry and they have to help each other survive. There are other elements to the story as well- Sam constantly references the wise sayings of his older brother Steve and later  in the novel we discover why.

 I remember reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in college and the line "twas water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink" has always stuck with me as being perhaps the worst thing about being lost at sea. The book is told in a first person viewpoint and on more than one occasion the search for water and his burning thirst are Sam's major predicaments.

Macfarlane's knowledge of sea survival is astounding and he is able to transmit that through Sam's voice. Sam, for his part is a very capable young seaman. As you would expect there are lots of twists and turns in the story and just when we think he is safe some other calamity befalls him making for a compelling read indeed.

This story has echoes of classic survival reads such as The Call of the Wild and The Old Man and the Sea but with a youthful exuberance of books such as Down the Yukon by Will Hobbs. I recommend it for ages 9+.

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