Abigail Takes the Wheel (I Can Read Chapter Book Series)

Abigail Takes the Wheel (I Can Read Chapter Book Series)

by Avi, Don Bolognese

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Collision in the Harbor! Abigail and her brother, Tom, travel to school every day aboard their father's freight boat, the Neptune. One day, two ships collide in the Narrows, and Abigail's father goes to their aid—leaving Abigail to take the Neptune's wheel. Can she and Tom steer the freight boat through the crowded and dangerous waters of New York


Collision in the Harbor! Abigail and her brother, Tom, travel to school every day aboard their father's freight boat, the Neptune. One day, two ships collide in the Narrows, and Abigail's father goes to their aid—leaving Abigail to take the Neptune's wheel. Can she and Tom steer the freight boat through the crowded and dangerous waters of New York Harbor alone?

Author Biography:

Ask Avi how you know when you're a real writer and his answer is simple: "I think you become a writer when you stop writing for yourself or your teachers and start thinking about readers." Avi made up his mind to do that when he was just a senior in high school.

Avi was born in 1937 in New York City and was raised in Brooklyn. Kids often ask him about his name. "My twin sister gave it to me when we were both about a year old. And it stuck." To this day, Avi is the only name the author uses.

As a kid, Avi says, he was "shy, not into sports, but someone who loved to read and play games of imagination." He did not consider himself a good student, though. "In elementary school I did well in science, but I was a poor writer. When I got to high school I failed all my courses. Then my folks put me in a small school that emphasized reading and writing." What made him want to become a writer? "Since writing was important to my family, friends and school, it was important to me. I wanted to prove that I could write. But it took years before I had a book published."

Avi didn't start off as an author of children's books but as a playwright. It was only when he had children of his own that he started to write for young people.

When asked if writing is hard for him, Avi gives anunequivocal YES. "But," he goes on, "it's hard for everyone to write well. I have to rewrite over and over again, so on average it takes me a year to write a book." Where does he get his ideas? "Everybody has ideas. The vital question is: What do you do with them? My wife, a college teacher, uses her ideas to understand literature. My rock musician sons shape their ideas in to music. I take my ideas and turn them into stories."

Avi's advice for people who want to write: "I believe reading is the key to writing. the more you read, the better your writing can be." He adds, "Listen, and watch the world around you. Don't be satisfied with answers others give you. Don't assume that because everyone believes a thing, that it is right or wrong. Reason things out for yourself. Work to get answers on your own. Understand why you believe things. Finally, write what you honestly feel, then learn from the criticism that will always come your way."Avi's many award-winning books for young readers include the Newbery Honor Books Nothing But the Truth and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, as well as more Tales from Dimwood Forest, including Poppy, winner of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, Poppy and Rye, and Ragweed. His many other books include tales of mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction for young readers of all ages.In His Own Words...

When I was small, I was read to continually. My grandparents were always telling stories. Our house was filled with books. I saw adults read. Hardly a wonder, then, that I becane a early reader of all sorts of things — books for childern, comic books, science magazines, history books — anything in which I could fing a story. There was kids' radio too, which I adored. Even so, writing didn't interest me.

It was in my junior year of high school that a great crisis took place: My English teacher informed my parents that I was the worst student he ever had. That summer I was required to spend a lot os time with a family friend, a teacher, who tutored me in writing basics. She gave me something even more important: a reason for writing.

Writing, she taught me, was not just for myself or for some teacher. It was a way of sharing ideas and stories with many. With that notion in mind, I set out after that summer to be a writer, though it wasn't until I had childern of my own that I began to write for young people.

I believe that as a writer for kids, I have three basic options. The first is to write as well as I can. The second is to be honest. The third is to create a vision of possibility. It doesn't matter if that vision is happy or tragic, funny or serious. What does matter is that I show that life is worth living, that we must at least try to fulfill the promise of ourselves. As one of my characters once said, "A good childern's book of promises. And promises are ment to be kept."

I really enjoy meeting my readers. Each year I visit schools and classrooms, and talk to young readers, teachers, and librarians all over the country. We talk about books, the writing and reading of them, how books affect — even change — their readers. It's a good life.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susan Hepler
In the 1880s, young Abigail takes the helm of her father's paddle-wheeler freight boat in an emergency and guides the boat safely into the New York harbor, no mean task since it is also towing a huge sailing ship. A candid author's note states that Avi found this story in a children's magazine from the time, and while there's no indication of whether it's based on a true story, he guesses it is. Still, it's a story of courage and unflappable competence. Bolognese's pencil, ink and watercolor illustrations render the action with just enough period detail to keep young readers interested but not overwhelmed. These help readers visualize the backing and forthing of the ship as it struggles to avoid other boats in the harbor and a crash with the pier as well. A good addition to the historical fiction shelf for new readers and a companion to others in the series. "I Can Read Chapter Book" series.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-3-An easy-reader set in the 1880s. Abigail and Tom have made the 20-mile trip from Old Port, NJ, to New York City on their family's freight boat hundreds of times. Things take a surprising turn, though, when their father takes the helm of a damaged sailing ship they are towing into harbor and Abigail must take charge of the Neptune when the first mate falls ill. She navigates the freighter safely through to its final destination where she is lauded by the crews of both vessels. An author's note states that the tale is based on a story that appeared in St. Nicholas magazine in 1881. The setting is established largely through the illustrations, from the characters' suspenders, aprons, and lace-up boots to the engine being stoked. Muted colors and a predominance of earth tones add to the atmosphere. Although the dialogue and third-person narrative have no particular period flavor, the boat signals and maneuvers are vividly described. The child-saves-the-day story line will appeal to youngsters whose daydreams tend to feature themselves as the heroic protagonists. With minimal characterization, this is a carefully illustrated, plot-driven adventure for transitional readers.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the I Can Read Chapter Book series, Avi returns to some surefire ingredients—a girl and the boat she eventually pilots—though for a far younger audience than that for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Every day, Abigail Bates, brother Tom, and their father, Captain Bates, leave Old Port, in New Jersey, in their paddle wheel freight boat and home, the Neptune. On board is a load of fresh vegetables intended for buyers in New York City, 20 miles up the Hudson. One morning, as they leave Old Port, two sailing ships collide; Captain Bates offers to tow one of them to New York, but under harbor law, he has to take her wheel. He leaves first mate Mr. Oliver to pilot the Neptune, but Mr. Oliver becomes ill and hands the wheel over to Abigail. Scared but game, Abigail navigates the two ships through the busy river traffic, barely escaping another collision and ingeniously maneuvering the stricken sailing ship to safe berth. Predictably, for her courage and skill, she is made an honorary captain. Abigail is a spunky heroine cast in a sturdy story; the suspense will hold readers just ready for chapter books. The surprise in the competent illustrations, which conjure the late 19th-century setting, is the insertion of some unexpected diversity in the casting of the first mate. (Fiction. 8-10)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
I Can Read Book 4 Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.48(w) x 8.47(h) x 0.31(d)
Age Range:
8 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Avi is the author of more than sixty books, including Crispin: The Cross of Lead, a Newbery Medal winner, and Crispin: At the Edge of the World. His other acclaimed titles include The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth, both Newbery Honor Books, and most recently The Seer of Shadows. He lives with his family in Colorado.

Don Bolognese is the illustrator of many popular books of historical fiction, including the I Can Read Books Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express by Eleanor Coerr and Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner. He lives in New York City and Vermont.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964

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