• Happy birthday Uri Orlev (Run, Boy, Run) and Matthew Holm (Babymouse series).
  • Happy Birthday to Steve Jobs (1955-2011), Apple cofounder. Read Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak: Geek Heroes Who Put the Personal in Computers by Mike Venezia and Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat.
  • It’s the birth date of Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Mary Ellen Chase (1887–1973) Silas Crockett.

Today marks the birthday of Canadian writer Iain Lawrence. He was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, called simply “the Sault,” which is pronounced to rhyme with zoo. Once a year his brother would sing, “Happy Birthday to you. You were born in the Sault.” Possibly this early nonsense verse encouraged Lawrence to seek a career of writing books for children. But getting published was not easy. His agent Jane Jordan Browne worked ten years before she placed our book of the day, The Wreckers.

For me, as for most readers, so many books conjure up the person who made the recommendation. In the case of Iain Lawrence, the fabulous book people Phyllis Simon and Kelly McKinnon of Vancouver B.C.’s Kidsbooks pressed a copy of The Wreckers into my hands as I was leaving an event at their store. When I reread it, I thought of their wonderful hospitality and my happy plane ride back to the United States when I first read The Wreckers.

If you are hunting for a fast-paced, exciting sea story, then you definitely want to pick up The Wreckers. In 1799 fourteen-year-old John Spencer sails with his father on the Isle of Skye. Lured by false lights, the boat breaks apart on the rocky shores of Cornwall, England. Although John watches in horror as every living crew member is killed by the citizens of the town, he manages to escape and then has to spend his time trying to figure out whom in this village he can trust. For the people have gone from singing hymns in church—“If sailors there are, / And wrecks there must be, / I beseech You / To send them to me”—to causing these wrecks themselves. Once a boat comes to shore, they can confiscate it as plunder. John searches for his father, hidden in chains while rats chewed on his boots, and then must take action to get them both out alive.

This swashbuckling tale of derring-do, worthy of Robert Louis Stevenson himself, makes the history of Cornwall come alive. Ideal for eleven-fourteen-year-olds, the book sweeps readers along as the events of the story unfold. For those who find they want to read more of this author, Lawrence has written other books in this series as well as fabulous novels such as The Lightkeeper’s Daughter and B for Buster.

Thank you Phyllis and Kelly for your hospitality and book recommendation so many years ago. And to Iain Lawrence, who I have never had the pleasure to meet except in his books, “Happy birthday to you.”

Here’s a passage from The Wreckers:

There was nothing we could do but let the scene unfold; the ship would clear the cape, or she would not. For her, the wind was like a slope of shifting sand, and for every yard she climbed, she slipped a little back. For an hour or more she ran toward the cape, inching up the slope of wind, until she was no more than a shadow in the distance. Then she turned again, and the wreckers cheered; the ship was still embayed.

“Sometimes this lasts for days,” said Mary.

Originally posted February 25, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, England, History, Survival
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Wreckers
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  1. McCourt says:

    Thanks for this recommendation. I always appreciate a good book to suggest this age group (especially the boys) when I’m volunteering in the library. They can be a hard sell at times but this looks like an adventure that will capture them!

  2. Jack says:

    Awsome read

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Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

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