Plenty of people have read Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and even more are familiar with the story of Ahab's doomed pursuit of the white whale, but few are aware that the climactic event at the book's end is based on a true incident. Nathaniel Philbrick tells this astounding tale in Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex, an adaptation of his best-selling adult book In the Heart of the Sea that young readers will love. In the Heart of the Sea won a National Book Award in 2000. Now, with Revenge of the Whale, Philbrick presents an abridged version of the story, complete with maps, diagrams and photos. Much of what is known about the ill-fated voyage that occurred in 1820 comes from the long-forgotten memoirs of the Essex's cabin boy, Thomas Nickerson, who was only 14 years old when he signed on with the ship. Rammed by an angry sperm whale, the Essex sank in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, forcing the 20-member crew, most of whom were in their teens, to take to the sea in three small boats. Philbrick's account of how they braved the ocean and faced a wrathful whale makes for fascinating reading. Although death awaited many on the harrowing journey of almost 3,000 miles, eight of the men lived to be rescued. In order to tell his story accurately, Philbrick relates incidents of cannibalism and deprivation material that's hardly the stuff of children's literature. For that reason, the book is recommended for middle schoolers and older readers.
Revenge of the Whale is filled with details of life on a whaling vessel, as well as vivid illustrations that add pictures to those words. Philbrick also paints a fascinating portrait of 19th century Nantucket, and he's included a supplementary reading list for those who would like to learn more about the topics covered in his book.
Vivid and compelling, Revenge of the Whale is history at its best. Kids with a fascination for all things nautical will find this book memorable perhaps too much so.