The Barnes & Noble Review
Take the adventure element from the anthropomorphic Redwall fantasy series and mix in a bit of mystery àla the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, and you'll come close to Brian Jacques's Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. This book reads like two stories in one, the first taking place on the 17th-century decks of the legendary ship, the Flying Dutchman, where a 15-year-old boy and a stray dog struggle to survive the horrid conditions and the murderous crew. But when a deadly storm sinks the ship, it's only with a bit of angelic intervention that the two survive and are gifted with immortality.
The second part of the story takes place some 200 years later. During this time, the boy (Ben) and his dog (Ned) haven't aged a day, and their wanderings have led them to the small English village of Chapelvale, where they befriend an elderly widow who tells them that the little village may soon be destroyed. It seems a greedy developer named Obadiah Smithers has plans to buy the town up, tear it down, and mine it for limestone. The widow's family has long been rumored to own the lands where the village stands, but the woman can't find the necessary paperwork to prove her title. And without it, Smithers can't be stopped.
Ben and Ned offer to help the widow look for the paperwork and are aided in their quest by a couple of local youngsters. Eventually, Ben finds a clue that suggests one of the widow's ancestors has hidden the necessary title documents. But as one clue leads to another, before long everyone is off on an adventurous treasure hunt through town. Hampering their efforts is a gang of local bullies led by Smithers's nasty son, but it doesn't take long for Ben to outsmart the bullies, and rob them of their power.
Adding to this wonderful reading experience are Ian Schoenherr's pen-and-ink drawings at the start of each chapter, which help readers anticipate what's coming and visualize the clues. And while Jacques has opted for more human heroes this time out, fans of his Redwall series will find similar themes and the same sense of adventure. (Beth Amos)
Pure-hearted enough to escape the curse that befalls the crew of the legendary Flying Dutchman, a boy and his dog are granted immortality and sent forth to "spread peace and joy throughout the world." PW wrote that while the Redwall author here turns his attention to humans, "his fans will not be disappointed." Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Well known for his Redwall books (over a dozen volumes detailing the quests and feasts of various plucky woodland creatures), Jacques here turns his attention to the human world, and his fans will not be disappointed. Readers led by the title and cover art to expect a briny swashbuckler may be surprised to find that the bulk of the story consists of an ambling scavenger hunt set in a cozy English village. Pure-hearted enough to escape the curse that befalls the crew of the legendary Flying Dutchman, a boy and his dog are instead granted immortality and sent forth to "spread peace and joy" throughout the world. Two centuries later, in 1896, the ageless Ben and Ned (the latter is the dog) land in Chapelvale, a quaint village threatened with industrialization by a passel of nasty developers and ruled by a gang of juvenile delinquents. With the help of the villagers, the duo conducts a fairly contrived search (one clue is even written in invisible ink) for the ancient land title that will save Chapelvale from its grim fate. Though most of the characters are bipeds, the story doesn't veer much from the Redwall formula. Ultimately, it doesn't much matter whether the bumbling thugs sent from London to intimidate the Chapelvale populace are weasels or humans--Jacques's fans will be tickled by the characters' goofy slapstick regardless of their genus. The care taken with design (among other features, line drawings are set niftily into the first page of each chapter) adds to the appeal. All ages. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This is a thrilling story about a boy and his dog who get stuck on a haunted ship. After they fall off the boat and are whisked ashore, an angel voice guides them through many adventures. Brian Jacques authored the very popular "Redwall" series, which features anthropomorphic animals. This book focuses on people rather than animals and therefore departs from his previous style. However, fans of the "Redwall" series and new readers will enjoy this engaging, suspenseful tale. It is appropriate for older elementary students through adults. 2002 (orig. 2001), Ace/Penguin, Ages 9 up.
The legend of the ill-fated Flying Dutchman is the springboard for this story set in 1620 in which an avenging angel condemns the ship and its villainous crew to sail the seas forever. Thirteen-year-old Neb, a mute boy, and the black Labrador dog he has befriended and named Den are spared, however, because of their innocent hearts. The angel makes them immortal, restores Neb's voice, and gives Den the ability to communicate telepathically with Neb. These gifts have a price, however. Neb and Den must roam Earth, helping people in trouble and moving on when they hear a certain bell ring. In 1896 the companions, now called Ben and Ned, arrive in Chapeldale, England, and befriend a brother and siste, who are close in age to Ben. Chapeldale appears to be a peaceful English village, but wickedness is afoot. Unless Mrs. Winifred Winn can prove that she owns the land on which the village is built, Obadiah Smithen will rake over the town to build a limestone quarry and cement factory. Ben, Ned, and their friends have only seven days to solve the mystery of the missing deeds. Ben has no other powers, but his immortality gives him talents that imbue him with confidence and mystery. Readers who enjoy fantasy will love imagining that they are like Ben. Frequent references to the trauma of the Dutchman's demise get a bit tiring, but it is easy to skim over these brief parts, and they will not affect the reader's overall enjoyment of this lively adventure, first in what looks to be a new series by the creator of the popular Redwall books. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Philomel, 327p, . Ages 12 to 14.Reviewer: Dolores Maminski SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
Neb, a mute orphan boy, and a scrawny black Labrador dog called Den, team up in Denmark in 1620, taking dubious shelter on a sailing ship. Work is hard, the boy's masters are harsh—and the ship is called The Flying Dutchman. As conditions worsen and the food runs out, Neb despairs of surviving the voyage. Divine intervention arrives in the form of an angel when the captain of the ship calls down curses on Heaven itself. Neb and Den are washed overboard when the angel condemns the ship to its eternal journey. The castaway pair, now calling themselves Ben and Ned, are given the ability to communicate with each other as well as eternal life, and Ben receives not only the ability to speak but also to be able to speak any language he hears. They are charged with helping people however they can and must go from place to place as directed by the angel. Most of the story concerns Ben and Ned's attempt to save a village from ruthless industrialists in 1896, searching for the deeds to an elderly widow's land. There are mysteries and riddles galore in this appealing story, as well as mouthwatering descriptions of meals and a generous dollop of humor. The characterizations are appealing, if a bit melodramatic, and the story flows well. The plot could easily have become fluffy, but Jacques adds a psychological element that heightens the suspense and tension of the tale. Redwall fans will not be disappointed, and Jacques is sure to win himself new readers as well. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Berkley, Ace, 356p., Scanlon
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This novel has a split personality. It begins with flair in 1620 in Copenhagen, where the sinister Dutch sea captain Vanderdecken begins an ill-fated journey aboard the Flying Dutchman. Also onboard is young Neb, a stowaway who is immediately discovered and put to work. The crazed captain, cursing God, forces them to sail the ship around Cape Horn in a horrible storm. An angel bearing a sword appears and dooms the ship and its inhabitants to an eternity of ghostly sailing; Neb and his dog, however, receive the gift of eternal life, the ability to read one another's thoughts, and the duty to roam the world and help others in need. After a brief sojourn in Tierra del Fuego, the story jumps forward to England in 1896, where the boy and his wisecracking dog, now calling themselves Ben and Ned, help save a village from being demolished. From this point on, the novel reads like an old-fashioned children's mystery, with all the good-hearted villagers pitching in, guided by Ben, to find the missing land deeds that would foil the plans of a black-hearted industrialist. Esoteric clues, buried treasure, village bullies, an absentminded librarian, and nice old ladies create a cozy, claustrophobic atmosphere that will make readers wonder what the Flying Dutchman had to do with anything-except for giving Ben nightmares. The supernatural aspects seem out of place and superfluous. Readers who are pulled in by the exciting sea adventure may well abandon the book once it segues to the slower, longer section ashore.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Read an Excerpt
They sat facing one another across a table in the upper room of a drinking den known as the Barbary Shark. Two men. One a Dutch sea captain, the other a Chinese gem dealer. Muffled sounds of foghorns from the nighttime harbor, mingling with the raucous seaport din outside, passed unheeded. A flagon of fine gin and a pitcher of water, close to hand, also stood ignored. In the dim, smoke-filtered atmosphere, both men's eyes were riveted upon a small, blue velvet packet, which the gem dealer had placed upon the table.
Slowly he unwrapped the cloth, allowing a large emerald to catch facets of the golden lantern light. It shimmered like the eye of some fabled dragon. Noting the reflected glint in the Dutchman's avaricious stare, the Chinaman placed his long-nailed hand over the jewel and spoke softly. "My agent waits in Valparaiso for the arrival of a certain man-somebody who can bring home to me a package. It contains the brothers and sisters of this green stone, many of them! Some larger, others smaller, but any one of them worth a fortune. Riches to fire a man beyond his wildest dreams. He who brings the green stones to me must be a strong man, commanding and powerful, able to keep my treasure from the hands of others. My friend, I have eyes and ears everywhere on the waterfront. I chose you because I know you to be such a man!"
The captain's eyes, bleak and grey as winter seas, held the merchant's gaze. "You have not told me what my reward for this task will be."
The gem dealer averted his eyes from the captain's fearsome stare. He lifted his hand, exposing the emerald's green fire. "This beautiful one, and two more like it upon delivery."
The Dutchman's hand closed over the stone as he uttered a single word. "Done!"
The boy ran, mouth wide open, gasping to draw in the fog-laden air. His broken shoes slapped wetly over the harbor cobblestones. Behind him the heavy, well-shod feet of his pursuers pounded, drawing closer all the time. He staggered, forcing himself to keep going, stumbling through pools of yellow tavern lights, on into the milky muffling darkness. Never would he go back, never again would the family of his stepfather treat him like an animal, a drudge, a slave! Cold sweat streamed down into his eyes as he forced his leaden legs onward. Life? No sane being could call that life: a mute, dumb from birth, with no real father to care for him. His mother, frail creature, did not live long after her marriage to Bjornsen, the herring merchant. After her death the boy was forced to live in a cellar. Bjornsen and his three hulking sons treated their captive no better than a dog. The boy ran with the resounding clatter of Bjornsen's sons close behind him. His one aim was to escape them and their miserable existence. Never would he go back. Never!
A scarfaced Burmese seaman crept swiftly downstairs, where he joined four others at a darkened corner of the Barbary Shark tavern. He nodded to his cohorts, whispering, "Kapitan come now!"
They were all sailors of varied nationalities, as villainous a bunch of wharf rats as ever to put foot on shipboard. Drawing further back into the shadows, they watched the staircase, which led from the upper room. The long blue scar on the face of the Burmese twitched as he winked at the others.
"I 'ear all, Kapitan goes for the green stones!"
A heavily bearded Englishman smiled thinly. "So, we ain't just takin' a cargo of ironware out to Valparaiso. Who does Vanderdecken think he's foolin', eh? He's only goin' out there to pick up a king's ransom of precious stones!"
A hawkfaced Arab drew a dagger from his belt. "Then we collect our wages, yes?"
The Englander, who was the ringleader, seized the Arab's wrist. "Aye, we'll live like lords for the rest of our lives, mate. But you stow that blade, an' wait 'til I gives the word."
They took another drink before leaving the Barbary Shark.
The boy stood facing his pursuers-he was trapped, with no place to run, his back to the sea. Bjornsen's three big sons closed in on the edge of the wharf, where their victim stood gasping for air and trembling in the fogbound night. Reaching out, the tallest of the trio grabbed the lad's shirtfront.
With a muted animal-like grunt, the boy sank his teeth into his captor's hand. Bjornsen's son roared in pain, releasing his quarry and instinctively lashing out with his good hand. He cuffed the boy a heavy blow to his jaw. Stunned, the youngster reeled backward, missed his footing, and fell from the top of the wharf pylons, splashing into the sea. He went straight down and under the surface.
Kneeling on the edge, the three brothers stared into the dim, greasy depths. A slim stream of bubbles broke the surface. Then nothing. Fear registered on the brutish face of the one who had done the deed, but he recovered his composure quickly, warning the other two.
"We could not find him, nobody will know. He had no relatives in the world. What's another dumb fool more or less. Come on!"
Checking about to see that they had not been noticed in the dark and fog, the trio scurried off home.
Standing at the gangplank, the Dutch captain watched the last of his crew emerge from the misty swaths which wreathed the harbor. He gestured them aboard.
"Drinking again, jah? Well, there be little enough to get drunk on 'tween here and the Pacific side of the Americas. Come, get aboard now, make ready to sail!"
The blue scar contracted as the Burmese smiled. "Aye, aye, Kapitan, we make sail!"
With floodtide swirling about her hull and the stern fenders scraping against the wharf timbers, the vessel came about facing seaward. Staring ahead into the fog, the captain brought the wheel about half a point and called, "Let go aft!"
A Finnish sailor standing astern flicked the rope expertly, jerking the noosed end off the bollard which held it. The rope splashed into the water. Shivering in the cold night air, he left it to trail along, not wanting to get his hands wet and frozen by hauling the backstay rope aboard. He ran quickly into the galley and held his hands out over the warm stove.
The boy was half in and half out of consciousness, numbed to his bones in the cold sea. He felt the rough manila rope brush against his cheek and seized it. Painfully, hand over hand, he hauled himself upward. When his feet touched ship's timber, the boy pulled his body clear of the icy sea and found a ledge. He huddled on it, looking up at the name painted on the vessel's stern in faded, gold-embellished red. Fleiger Hollander.
He had never learned to read, so the letters meant nothing to him. Fleiger Hollander in Dutch, or had the lad been able to understand English, Flying Dutchman. Reprinted Castaways of the Flying Dutchman by Brian Jacques by Permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, A Member Of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (C) 2000 Brian Jacques. All Rights Reserved. This Excerpt, Or Any Parts Thereof, May Not Be Reproduced in Any Form Without Permission.
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From the Publisher
"Bold and brilliant...powerful and unforgettable." Lloyd Alexander, Newbery Medal Winner
"Fans will not be disappointed." Publishers Weekly