Saturday, September 24, 2011
This is the novel where the adventures begin, as Mary Faber, a young girl orphaned when her entire family is wiped out by disease, is left on the streets of London in the early 19th century. She lives with a gang of other street kids, stealing and begging for food. Her family was educated and Mary knows how to read, and she earns some money reading broadsides aloud for passersby. When things become to terrible to bear, Mary disguises herself as a boy and, thanks to her literacy skills, manages to get herself signed on to a Royal Navy ship as ship's boy, calling herself Jack.
Adventure, romance, pirates, naval battles, bullies, and other fun and exciting elements ensue, as Jacky, with her quick wits and impulsive but generous nature proceeds to turn her life (and the lives of those around her) upside down. This is one of my very favorite historical series, and I recommend often to readers at my library. They always come back to tell me how much they enjoyed the book and request the next one. Happily there are quite a few in this series, with more to come. I read the text version of this one initially, but now that I've discovered the audio books, I don't think I can go back. Katherine Kellgren does a spectacular job of reading this series - aside from giving characters their own unique voices, accents, and manners of speaking, she also sings the songs, which makes the books even more fun. It's almost like listening to a radio play.
My library shelves this in the teen section, because there are situations that are best appreciated by teens and preteens. There are references to Jacky's attraction to one of the other ship's boys, and to her developing body (and how difficult it is to maintain the illusion of her masculinity aboard ship), but it was nothing I felt uncomfortable about my ten-year-old listening to. In fact, listening to this book together sparked some interesting conversations about life in the past, and the politics of the time, and the complex social system aboard the ship.
We are now listening to the third one in this series (I'm SO behind on my reviews!), and now that school has started we are so busy, and it's become rare for the entire family to be in the car at the same time for more than a short ride, which makes it tough to continue with the book. But we're not allowed to keep listening unless all four of us are in the car! So the moment we are all together, there is inevitably a chorus from the back seat demanding "Bloody Jack! Bloody Jack!" and that's fine with my husband and me.
Books in the Bloody Jack series:
1. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy
2. Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady
3. Under the Jolly Roger: Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber 4. In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being an Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber
5. Mississippi Jack: Being an Account of the Further Waterborne Adventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman, Fine Lady, and the Lily of the West6. My Bonny Light Horseman: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, in Love and War
7. Rapture of the Deep: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Soldier, Sailor, Mermaid, Spy
8. The Wake of the Lorelie Lee: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, on Her Way to Botany Bay
9. The Mark of the Golden Dragon: Being an Account of the Continuing Adventures of Jacky Faber, Wending Her Way Back from Botany Bay (October 2011)
Bloody Jack (#1 in the Bloody Jack series) by L.A. Meyer; narrated by Katherine Kellgren (Listen and Live Audio, 2007)