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Cast Off

Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen
Author: Eve Yohalem
Published: March 10, 2015 by Calkins Creek

GoodReads Summary: It’s 1663 and there is an extra passenger on board a Dutch merchant ship setting sail for the East Indies. Twelve-year-old Petra has stowed away to escape her abusive father. But she quickly realizes that surviving for months at sea will be impossible without help. So when Bram, the half-Dutch / Half-Javanese son of the ship’s carpenter, finds her hiding spot, Petra convinces him to help her stay hidden . . .and help disguise her as a boy.

If Petra is discovered and exposed as a girl, she could be tossed overboard, or worse . . . returned to her father. And if Bram is exposed for helping her, he could lose the only home—and family—he has. As tensions rise on the ship, with pirates attacking, deadly illness, and even mutiny, Petra and Bram face impossible decisions that test their friendship and threaten their dreams of freedom.

Told in alternating voices and filled with secrets and intrigue, this richly researched novel is historical fiction at its best.

Review: Take me away! This book whisked me off on a marvelous adventure filled with grave dangers, stow aways, tall ships, and mutiny. I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my childhood favorites, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Petra escapes from a horribly abusive relationship with her father, and her bravery is an excellent model for young readers. She is discovered by Bram, the illegitimate son of the ship’s carpenter, and they form a very special friendship. This book delivers richly realized themes—particularly those of loyalty, heroism, sexism, and racism—that are very relevant to readers across time. I imagine a wide variety of audiences would appreciate this text because it touches on so many fascinating topics. It is clear that the author did her homework, and the result is magnificently entertaining.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is an excellent example of a text that could be analyzed with a critical theorist lens. (See Appleman’s book about teaching critical theory to students of all levels.) I imagine rich classroom discussions would evolve from the application of gender theory or race theory, for instance, to this text. This is a compliment to the author and the depth of this book.

Discussion Questions: In what ways do gender and race play a role in this text?; How does the author weave history into the story?; What does Petra and Bram’s friendship teach us about humans in general?; How do the main characters display qualities of bravery?

Read This If You Loved: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi; Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld; Secrets of the Realm by Bev Stout; Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Recommended For:

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Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of CAST OFF: The Strange Adventures of Petra De Winter and Bram Broen (U.S. addresses; allow 4-6 weeks for delivery; offer ends 7/10/15).

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Guest Post from Eve Yohalem, Author of Cast Off!

Eve Yohalem photo

In 2009 I got this great idea for a seafaring adventure about two kids who sail from Amsterdam to the East Indies in the seventeenth century. There was just one problem: I knew next to nothing about the seventeenth century. Or the Netherlands. Or the East Indies. Or sailing.

No matter. I like a challenge. I researched for a full year before I started writing, and after I started writing, I kept researching. I’m still researching. (I like researching.)

Today my Cast Off file has more than four hundred different source notes. I read lots of books: scholarly academic stuff, journalistic stuff, fiction, memoirs, journals, every first person account I could find. I spoke to people who knew much more than me—VOC scholars, maritime scholars, curators, my husband (he sails), surgeons, and dentists. I hung out in oddball museums. I traveled to Indonesia, where I slept in the jungle and held baby orangutans, and to the Netherlands, where I retraced every step of my characters that I could and explored the dark nooks of two different full-scale East Indiamen replicas.

I have no research training. It would have helped if I’d majored in history in college, but I didn’t. Mostly, I followed my nose. I knew that my story would begin in Amsterdam and take place mostly at sea on an East Indiaman bound for Batavia. I knew two of my characters: a Dutch girl and an East Indian boy, both twelve years old. That’s a lot to get started with.

What’s surgery like by candlelight below deck on a rocking ship before the invention of anesthesia? How do you fire a 4,000 pound canon without getting crushed by the recoil? These were the kinds of questions I tried to answer.

I tried to convey what it felt like to cram three hundred men onto a 150-foot long vessel for six months (damp, dark, and airless below, smelled bad, no privacy). The layout of the ship is based on actual ships of the period, as are the various jobs, daily schedule, terrible food.

For my characters’ medical knowledge, I have to thank John Woodall’s The Surgeon’s Mate, a seventeenth century medical guide no ship’s surgeon would have been without.

And in case anyone’s wondering, I got most of my slang from the always entertaining A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew: In Its Several Tribes of Gypsies, Beggars, Thieves, Cheats, &c., with an Addition of Some Proverbs, Phrases, Figurative Speeches, &c. by B. E. Gent, c 1698. In my opinion, some of these terms should be brought back into everyday use. Please help make “Kiss my blind cheeks!” go viral!

Follow Cast Off on the blog tour:
 
Mon, June 1
Book Monsters
Tues, June 2
The Hiding Spot
Wed, June 3
Books Unbound
Thurs, June 4
Unleashing Readers
Fri, June 5
Read Now, Sleep Later
Mon, June 8
Mother Daughter Book Club
Tues, June 9
Cracking the Cover
Wed, June 10
The Compulsive Reader
Thurs, June 11
The Children’s Book Review
Fri, June 12
I Read Banned Books

*Thank you to Barbara at BlueSlip Media for sending this book for review!*

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2 Responses to Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Author Guest Post!: Cast Off by Eve Yohalem

  1. Eric Wandzel says:

    I love historical fiction and this is seems like a great addition to the genre.

  2. Jana Eschner says:

    I’m really excited to share this with my students!

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