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BGHB at 50: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

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Our eight- and ten-year-old boys were in bed, teeth brushed and ready. Over the years, our family had managed to hang on to nightly reading, slowly working our way up from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie through the unabridged Robin Hood and Huckleberry Finn. The dogs each curled up on a kid’s bed, and the cat leapt onto the bureau.

Everyone settled, I cracked open the book. “Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder,” I read, “brought to trial, and found guilty.”

“What?” My ten-year-old shot straight up in bed. “This is a story about a girl?””

You’d think murder would have caught his attention.

“Just listen,” I said. “You’re gonna like this girl.”

It turned out to be an understatement. There was serious begging each night for more chapters as Charlotte sailed in 1832 from Liverpool to Providence, Rhode Island, the only female with a murderous crew. At times this novel was so bloody and vindictive and torturous, I had trouble reading it. But the delight and/or horror of every plot twist captivated us all.

Restored to the bosom of her loving family, Charlotte makes her final, shocking move, and I closed the book. Both boys were absolutely silent, satiated with a great story.

For more in our Boston Globe–Horn Book at 50 series, click the tag bghb@50 and browse our new dedicated Boston Globe–Horn Book website.

Elizabeth Partridge About Elizabeth Partridge

Elizabeth Partridge is the acclaimed author of more than a dozen books, including Marching to Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary (Viking), for which she won the 2008 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction. She is on the faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults.

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