Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Adventures of a Young Sailor: Powder Monkey

Adventures of a Young Sailor: Powder Monkey

Paul Dowswell
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Bloomsbury, 2005   ISBN: 978-1582346755

Sam has wanted to be a sailor for as long as he can remember. His father is not keen on the idea, warning his son that life in the navy is very hard indeed. So a compromise is reached; Sam can go to sea but he has to get a position on a merchant ship. Though Sam has to work hard on the Franklyn, he is not treated with excessive cruelty and on the whole he likes his new life.

Then everything is turned upside down. First the Franklyn is attacked by a French privateer. Sam gets his first taste of what war at sea can be like, and he hates every minute of it. Then a British navy vessel arrives on the scene. Though the Franklyn is saved from the French, many of the men on board the merchant ship are pressed by the navy and the captain of the Franklyn cannot do a thing to prevent this from happening. Sam is one of the crew who is taken and thus begins his reluctant career in the navy on board the frigate Miranda.

There can be do doubt that Sam?s father was quite right. Life in the British navy is hard and very dangerous. Sam spends much of his time feeling terrified of what might happen. As a powder monkey there is a good chance that he might get blown to smithereens should their ship be attacked. And what about hand to hand combat with the enemy. If Sam has to be a part of a boarding party, he might very well be injured or killed. Of course there is also the basic business of living and working on the Miranda. Discipline is rigorous, punishments are harsh, and many of the crew are very dangerous men indeed.

This exciting tale gives a fascinating picture of what it might have been like to be on an English navy ship in the 1800?s. Given the conditions on board it is a wonder than anyone survived but survive they did, and some even came to like the navy way of life. Gripping battle scenes and plenty of intimate details about ship board life make this a absorbing read.