JUNE 10:

  • Happy birthday Aranka Siegal (Memories of Babi, Upon the Head of A Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944), and Charlotte Herman (My Chocolate Year, Max Malone Makes a Million).
  • It’s the birth date of Chap Reaver (1935-1993), Bill.
  • In 1829, the first boat race between the universities of Cambridge and Oxford takes place in England. Read Busytown Boat Race by Richard Scarry.
  • It’s National Iced Tea Day. Read Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, Ice by Arthur Geisert, Ice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Ice Magic by Matt Christopher, Miss Spider’s Tea Party by David Kirk, and The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr.

June has been designated Audio Appreciation Month. Today I am going to talk about an audio series that was recommended to me by my two favorite audio experts: Ellen Myrick, who created the audio section of 500 Great Books for Teens, and Alison Morris of Scholastic. If you are headed out for a road trip and want to entertain anyone twelve and older, L. A. Meyer’s Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady has been given an edge-of-the-seat reading by Katherine Kellgren for Listen & Live Audio. When I heard it, I wished I was spending more time in the car!

Curse of the Blue Tattoo, set in the early 1800s and the second volume in Meyer’s Bloody Jack Adventures, continues the saga of Jacky Faber, London orphan, who dressed up as a boy and shipped out on the H.M.S. Dolphin. In this book, Jacky has been returned to shore, but not London. Placed in the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls in Boston, the intrepid Jacky, who faced down pirates, meets her most difficult challenge yet: How do you fight like a lady? In an establishment in which Jacky is decidedly common and the other girls born with silver spoons in their mouths, her instructors want her to master embroidery, deportment, music, and art.

Fortunately, Jacky soon finds ways out of the school, into the town, and into trouble. She solves the murder of a young serving girl, brings the perpetrator to justice, and wins an important horse race—riding as a jockey.  And although some of her new friends, like the wealthy Amy, constantly lecture Jacky on her behavior, both friends and readers delight in the freedom and audacity of this singular young girl. Jacky does encounter some bawdy characters—drunks and prostitutes—but even they are beguiled by the largely innocent Jacky.

Just like Jacky, Katherine Kellgren sings her way through this story. Old sea shanties and ballads come to life in the audio recording. And the narrator is particularly good at capturing Jacky’s breathless, excited voice. Nothing, absolutely nothing, keeps Jacky Faber down for the count.

If you fall in love with Jacky there are many other volumes of her tale. What I particularly love about Curse of the Blue Tattoo is the way Meyer skillfully weaves together American, British, and Boston history. It never overwhelms the story but certainly inspired me to read about the post-Colonial history of Boston. I hope it does the same for some inquiring young readers. All readers can certainly go along for the ride, enjoying the high jinx of an extremely attractive protagonist.

So happy listening. I myself am off to hear the rest of the volumes.

Here’s a passage from Curse of the Blue Tattoo:

Now we’ve turned right and a big brick church is out my window to the right and a big graveyard too, and to the left is a large open field with horses and sheep wanderin’ about in the grass. Cows, too. Pray for me, cows, as I’m feelin’ in need of it and you look right sympathetic with your big brown eyes.

“It’s like havin’ the country right in the middle of the city. London for sure didn’t have nothin’ like that,” I said.

“It’s called the Common,” says Tilly, when he sees my interest. I think he’s glad that I’ve stopped crying.


Originally posted June 10, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Colonial America, History, Women
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Curse of the Blue Tattoo


  1. Catherine says:

    Anita, your recommendation to listen to this book is exactly right! A friend recommended it to me at the beginning of the summer last year, and I spent the next three months listening to the whole series. Can’t wait for Jacky’s next adventure!

  2. Frankie Moore says:

    This series has been a delight for my family. My two girls when they were in middle and high school and my husband read and listened to most of the series. Katherine Kellgren is brilliant. These are so entertaining. This one and the In the Belly of the Bloodhound were my favorites. We still say things like “prolly” to each other.

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