Dare the Wind
by Tracey Fern; illus. by Emily Arnold McCully
Primary Ferguson/Farrar 40 pp.
2/14 978-0-374-31699-0 $17.99 g
In the early 1800s, young Ellen Prentiss (1814–1900) learned to be a keen and fearless sailor on her father’s trading schooner. Captain Prentiss also taught Ellen a difficult skill most sailors, and even some captains, never learned: navigation, which she also mastered. She married Perkins Creesy, and the couple traveled the world’s oceans as captain and navigator. When the Creesys were given command of a sleek new clipper ship, The Flying Cloud, to transport passengers from New York to the California Gold Rush, Ellen accepted the accompanying challenge to smash the record for shortest voyage around Cape Horn. With Ellen’s aggressive tacks, daring but well-researched new routes, and knowledge that “a true navigator must have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind,” The Flying Cloud reached San Francisco in record time. Fern’s lively, nautically infused text rolls with the waves, while McCully’s ink and watercolor illustrations reflect the resplendent blues and greens of vast, changeable oceans. Spyglass-framed portraits of Ellen’s lessons with her father, sailing with her husband, and working alone reflect how both men supported her unlikely profession and highlight her own confident, assured navigational decisions. This is a spirited and fascinating tale for landlubbers and sea-lovers alike. A glossary, titles for further reading, and author’s note are appended, and a map of the voyage adorns the endpapers.