Review Blog

Jan 07 2011

Emily's surprising voyage by Sue Purkiss

cover image

Walker Books, 2010. ISBN 9781496321821.
(Age 6-10) Recommended. Emily doesn't want to leave England, her home and her beloved grandmother to sail across the world in the new iron-hulled steam powered ship SS Great Britain. Her father insists however, as he wants to look at Australia for possibilities of importing wool, or even having his own sheep farm, to supply the needs of his mill. On board Emily meets Thomas Drew a passenger from steerage, who has an intriguing pet, and unearths a ghostly secret in the hold of the huge ship.
Sue Purkiss is a master at threading history with fiction, writing a captivating story with engaging characters and an engrossing storyline. The people in the story come alive with the black and white line drawings by James La Rue, who captures perfectly their characteristics and mannerisms as well as the difference on board for the first class travellers and those in steerage. The hardships that poverty-stricken people face in the workhouses in Great Britain at the time are also touched on.
Historical information about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the famous engineer who designed the ship and the voyage that SS Great Britain took can be found at the end of the story, which would be a perfect companion for children looking at Victorian inventions.
On the CILIP Carnegie Medal longlist 2011, Emily's surprising voyage is an entertaining and thoughtful historical story for newly independent readers wanting a chapter book .
Pat Pledger

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