Friday, June 02, 2006

Chapter Books - The Secret Journey

The Secret Journey by Peg Kehret 1999

After a recent move (over eight months now) we are finally getting some unpacking done in the garage. To my delight I have found a box of books I had forgotten about and at one point thought lost. Yeah!!!! The Secret Journey is one I purchased several years ago and found it interesting and worth recommending to students then and I still feel the same upon its rediscovery. However, after re-reading it this past week I had forgotten there were some parts I found a bit hard to believe. But, that doesn't take away from the overall story.

Emma is what appears at the start a bit of a spoiled twelve-year-old girl who has just found out her parents are sending her to a not so nice aunt to stay indefinitely. Her mother is ill and her father, who can't seem to relate to his daughter, leaves Emma in the dark about many things including what is wrong with her mother. Emma knowing that she has no intention of staying with her aunt and bully of a cousin hatches a runaway plan. Now keep in mind the story is set in England in 1834. For some reason Emma thinks she can leave unnoticed from a home she has just arrived at, in a town she is unfamiliar with, and find her way to the docks where her parents are sailing to the south of France for treatment all the while with the thought of stowing away.

As Emma puts her plan in motion she encounters eye opening people and places on her way to the docks. There dressed as a boy she is lied to and ends up stowing away on an "evil" ship bound for Cape Town to smuggle slaves. Upon being discovered Emma endures life as a cabin boy until a fateful storm sinks the ship and strands her on a beach in a jungle region of Africa. Emma is the only survivor and must learn to live in the wild without any supplies. While existing on figs, spring water, and bugs Emma finds some solace from a distance in the companionship of chimpanzees. After what seems to be months, Emma puts together a “help” sign and catches the eye of a passing ship. There she is taken aboard and returned to England after being gone over four months. When she arrives she finds her aunt did not notify her parents she was missing, but is booked on the next ship to visit them. Emma ends up keeping the entire journey a secret, but vows to tell her parents one day.

Now, I have made the summary of this book sound a bit remarkable, but it really is an interesting adventure story that will grab a reader’s attention the first time through. It is the second time through that makes one go, hum, this is a bit fantastical for the time period. Just think proper headstrong English girl meets pirates, lands on a “Survivor” hideaway, and finds inner strength. Recommended for 3rd through 6th grade who tend to revel in an incredible adventure.

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