Charlotte has been living in England attending finishing school, but now it is time for her to travel back to Providence, Rhode Island to be with her family. Her family went on ahead, so she could finish her studies, so Charlotte will be traveling with several other families aboard the Seahawk. However, those families do not arrive at the ship, and even Charlotte see how few people want to help her reach this ship, but she has no choice in the matter and is onboard with a crew of rough sailors and one seemingly gentlemen-like Captain Jafferty. At first, Charlotte has an easy friendship with the captain and an uneasy friendship with a crew member Zachariah, but that changes when she discovers the captain's cruelty. What follows is Charlotte's adventure and discovery of strength.
This is mainly an adventure story, although there is the theme of proper behavior as well. Charlotte is a compelling character, but it is a little hard to believe that she changed so drastically in such a short amount of time. The reader must assume that she always had a adventurous side deep down, otherwise most proper girls of her time would have simply stayed in the cabin for the whole adventure.
It does make sense that the main character be a girl and not a boy. A boy of higher birth, even at that time, would have lived under a different set of rules. Of course, the work of a sailor would still have not been acceptable, but it would not be as forbidden as what Charlotte did. It would have been a good adventure story with a male protagonist, but it would not have been exceptional, as this story was, having received a Newbery Honor.
Above is the cover of the book that I read. However, I was lead to this book by an advertisement for the new cover.
Much better. I didn't know anything about Charlotte Doyle, other than the Newbery Honor (which can be a blessing and a curse), but this cover more accurately portrays the danger and daring in her journey. It draws the reader in much more than the original cover. Covers are quite important.
Here are some other covers for your enjoyment.
Here we have the covers from 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2003, and 2005.
The 1992 cover looks much too girly and does not convey the adventure inside-FAIL.
The 1993 cover looks like a creepy story and just looks pretty cheap. If your library has this cover, toss it please.
The 1997 cover is pretty good. Charlotte looks androgynous so this cover might be more easy to sell to male readers.
The 1998 cover is wretched. It reminds my of the cover for The Devil's Arithmetic. I'm sure that publishing was going through some type of fad with altered reflections back then, so let's all be glad that's not the style anymore. Toss this cover too.
This 2003 cover was a limited release I believe, but it's a pretty lovely cover.
The 2005 cover is quite nice, despite the ugly price sticker. It still has the same woodcut design, but with color, and movement. I like this one too.
It is always so fun to compare covers and see how they have evolved over the years. I much prefer the modern covers, and the original is not bad, although Charlotte looks quite manly, rather like Hagrid without the beard. Maybe that's why she made such a good sailor-she's half giant and we never knew it.