Author: Michael Northrop
Age Range: 9-12
Polaris by Michael Northrop is historical science fiction, both creepy and suspenseful. In the 1830's, somewhere off the coast of Brazil, a ship (the Polaris) awaits the return of a boat that has gone ashore to explore. When the boat returns, however, part of the crew is missing, and one returning crew member is infected. Following mutiny and abandonment by crew members, a collection of six boys is left to handle the ship, and the mysterious danger that now lurks below decks.
This story of young kids striving to sail a ship on their own would have been a compelling survival story in any event. The addition of a frightening creature that lurks below decks ratchets up the suspense. Northrop juggles the different personalities of the six young crew members skillfully. There is conflict between them, but they do eventually form a team, fighting a common enemy. The perspective of Polaris shifts between several of the quite different personalities, particularly those of Owen, chief cabin boy and nephew of the ship's one-time captain, and Henry, apprentice to the ship's botanist. Owen is strong and relatively skilled for his age, but, well, not terribly clever. Henry is an extremely poor sailor, but quite clever. As any reader will expect, the strengths of each boy come into play as the story progresses.
Polaris conveys many details of old-time ships, from rigging to navigation to food to maintenance. Young readers interested in Columbus' voyage will definitely want to give Polaris a look. The supernatural elements have a Michael Crichton-like feel, with a basis in science. Any kid looking for science-based science fiction will also want to check out Polaris. While the science fiction elements give Polaris a different feel from some of Northop's other books, there's no question that Polaris is a compelling and suspenseful read. Recommended, and well worth a look for libraries serving elementary and middle school readers.
Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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