Avi. (1990). The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. New York: Harper Trophy. 278 pages, $6.99
Mr. Grummage has strict instructions from Charlotte Doyle's father: to make sure that she boards the Seahawk, a ship headed for Prividence led by Captain Andrew Jaggery. She is to join two other families aboard the Seahawk on their journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Providence. When Mr. Grummage and Charlotte make it to the port, they learn that the other two families will not be on the voyage because they did not make it on time. Against Charlotte's protests as well as protests from the first mate, Mr. Grummage makes Charlotte board the ship to make the journey across the Atlantic. Charlotte feels alone and uncomfortable as the only [female] passenger on board, and she finds her accommodations far less than what she is accustomed to, but she remembers who she is and what her father and family would want. At her father's urging, she keeps a journal of her voyage. Zachariah, the ships eldest crew member who is also the cook and black, tries to befriend her and gives her a knife, advising her to keep it close to her at all times. Charlotte decides to keep it under her mattress in her cabin. When she meets Captain Jaggery, she feels comfortable with him, particularly because he works for her father, who owns the shipyard that owns the Seahawk. She knows that things will be OK as long as she is in good terms with Captain Jaggery. He tells her that he needs to keep order and asks her to be his eyes and ears when she is around the crew. As time passes, Charlotte starts to be helpful to them, but she discovers a gun in a crew member's trunk and a Round Robin. When she first spoke to Captain Jaggery, he told her that he had the only access to any weapons on the ship (muskets that he kept locked in his cabin). He also explained that a Round Robin is similar to a contract that the crew sign to pledge to overtake a ship. Charlotte knows that the right thing to do is to tell the captain what she discovered, but she also knows that this means betraying the crew that she has grown fond of. She decides to tell him, but realizes that she made a mistake when Captain Jaggery kills a stowaway, a former crew member, and orders Zachariah to take the blame for it by getting flogged, leading to his death. In trying to atone for what she did, Charlotte wants to become a member of the crew, so she proves herself to them by climbing the the rigging to the highest part of the ship. She is treated as a crew member, but then is accused of murdering Hollybrass, Captain Jaggery's first mate, during a storm. Charlotte is put on trial and found guilty. While in the brig awaiting to be hung, Charlotte finds Zachariah on board (he never died) and learns that he plans to inform the authorities that Captain Jaggery is the one who murdered Hollybrass when they reach Providence. Through complications and fighing, Captain Jaggery falls overboard and Charlotte becomes captain, but Zachariah is in charge. When they land in Providence, Charlotte meets her family, only to feel trapped and inhibited in her old life. What is worse is that her father refuses to talk about her journey and confines Charlotte to her room to "rest". Charlotte convinces one of her servants to bring her the daily newspaper and discovers that the Seahawk will be setting sail with one of her beloved crew members as the captain, so she decides that she will be on board the Seahawk.
At first, I thought this book was going to be difficult to get into, and the first chapter was a little difficult to understand, but once I got used to the language and the way they talked, it was much easier to read, understand, and enjoy. I was surprised at first when Charlotte decided to betray the crew members by telling Captain Jaggery about their plans to take over the Seahawk. I felt as though she thought she was better than they were even though they had clearly accepted, befriended, and trusted her. She betrayed their trust and friendship, but I liked that she atoned for what she did by taking on the challenge and succeeding. She realized that they were her freinds and that she was no better than they were. This truly showed that she was sorry and wanted to make things right with the crew. I also thought that she would feel trapped when she returned to her family in Providence. I did not think she would be able to go back to her former life and stay with her family and her former life after what she had been through. She had been through too much and seen too much to be able to go back to the priviledged life she used to lead. I think she made the right decision by going back to the Seahawk.
When I first saw this book, I thought it might have been a fictionalized account of what someone did and it would be of her confessing her situation and telling her story, but the title actually refers to Charlotte's journal that her father asked her to keep to keep her skills sharp on her long voyage to return to her family. Her father's request actually backfired for him because he did not want to Charlotte to keep it and even burned it. It seemed like he wanted to hide what had happened to her and wanted her to forget. This makes Charlotte see her father in a whole new way, and she realizes that he is not the person she thought he was because he does not want to believe what she wrote and what happened on her voyage.
http://www.avi-writer.com/index.html to learn more about him and to check out other titles he's written.