Never will I forget that fine spring day when I first crossed the gangway and set foot on the deck of the barque Pioneer. The Pioneer was a humble ship, but to my young eyes she seemed a marvel. Her three tall masts soared up to the sky, bearing acres of canvas and miles of tangled rigging. Her flag fluttered restlessly from the mainmast, as if she were as impatient as I was to begin her great adventure across the seas. The sailors were working furiously as they prepared to weigh anchor: loading the last items of cargo; scurrying over the deck shouting, cursing and singing; and hoisting themselves up nimbly up to the dizzying heights above to work among the spars and sails.
English boy, Nathan Whitford has just completed his schooling but his family consider him too young for Oxford and he is thrilled when his ship surgeon father convinces his mother that he should spend some time at sea. Nathan sets off with his father in the barque Pioneer. The adventure that follows is nothing he could ever have imagined. They are sailing down the coast of Africa when approached by a pirate ship, captained by the infamous Captain Graham. Graham was once a British Naval captain but a series of events had seen him lose his ship and his family. Now he attacks any British ship he sees. Nathan is taken hostage by Graham. He is presented with a choice: join the pirates or be hung.
Scrimshaw is an adventure in a grand style, told from the point of view of a sixteen year-old boy. Set in the 1700’s, Nathan leaves the security of England and travels into the wild oceans with his father. Nazam Anhar’s betrays a love of the sea and sailing in the detailed depiction of life at sea. His journey is a rite of passage and he faces many challenges once he is taken aboard the pirate ship. Characters reveal themselves gradually, with first impressions sometimes deceiving, sometimes proving true. Nathan is completely beyond any familiar experience and must begin to form his own opinions about who to trust. He must also call upon his own inner resources if he is to survive. A scrimshaw is a carved or etched whale tooth or bone. Recommended for 13+ and all those who wish they could ‘go to sea’.
Scrimshaw, Nazam Anhar
Scholastic Press 2009
Also by Nazam Anhar:
Milad: The Voyage to Ophir
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review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author