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There — and back again?

The protagonists of these adventures undertake perilous journeys (three of them via ship) in search of fantastical destinations or legendary objects — or just somewhere to belong.

milford_left-handed fateKate Milford’s The Left-Handed Fate begins in 1812, with ship-captain’s daughter Lucy Bluecrowne, her nine-year-old half-brother Liao, and teenage scholar Max Ault aboard the Left-Handed Fate. England is fighting Bonaparte and America has just declared war on England; Max has hired Captain Bluecrowne to search for an ancient weapon powerful enough to impose peace. With only one of the weapon’s parts located, the Fate is captured by an American frigate, the captain is killed, and twelve-year-old midshipman Oliver is given command of the ship to return it to port. Lucy and Max persuade Oliver to disobey these orders and head for the legendary port of Nagspeake in search of the weapon’s remaining pieces. The honor, courage, generosity — and occasional impishness — of the four young characters will leave readers cheering by the book’s rousing close. (Holt, 11–14 years)

fayers_voyage to magical northIn Claire Fayers’s The Voyage to Magical North, twelve-year-olds Brine and Peter fight a lot — especially when the two of them wind up adrift at sea in a rowboat. Their luck turns when they are rescued by pirate captain Cassie O’Pia and her crew, famed for defeating Marfak West, “the evilest magician the world has ever known.” But then a disguised West shows up and scams the crew into traveling to Magical North on an expedition for gold. With a fantastical world fraught with dangers (including man-eating penguins), a stout-hearted and quite funny crew of characters, and just a hint of metafiction, this pirate yarn rollicks with the best of them. (Holt, 9–12 years)

wegelius_murderer's apeSally Jones, narrator of Jakob Wegelius’s The Murderer’s Ape, is a gorilla living in the human world; she can read, write, and understand human speech, and has a talent with machinery. She and her friend/business partner the Chief own a cargo ship, the Hudson Queen — or at least, they did, until they agree to transport cargo for one Alphonse Morro; the tiles he asked them to transport turn out to be guns; his men take over the Hudson Queen; and the ship founders on rocks and sinks. After the Chief gets in a fight with the treacherous Morro, he ends up being charged with the man’s murder and is imprisoned. The rest of the story chronicles Sally Jones’s far-ranging efforts to clear her friend’s name. Sally Jones is such a sympathetic character that readers will be content to follow her slow, but ultimately satisfying, progress in this endeavor. (Delacorte, 9–12 years)

bailey_silver gateIn Elric’s superstitious feudal village, people think children born with disabilities — like Elric’s younger sister Wynn — are changelings who bring down a curse on the community. After their mother dies, Elric takes Wynn north though the forest in search of a place they can live in peace. The world is inhospitable and the journey is hard. But luckily Wynn has the magical song their mother taught her fixed firmly in her head, and she is sure that clues in the song will lead them to safety in fairyland. Elric is skeptical, but Wynn’s belief is eventually borne out. The Silver Gate by Kristin Bailey is as much a thoughtful study of human care and relationships as it is a quest story and fairy tale. (HarperCollins/Tegen, 9–12 years)

From the March 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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