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In late seventeenth-century England, eleven-year-old Digory, forced to leave his hometown after his father is lost at sea, becomes an apprentice to the architect Henry Winstanley, who built a lighthouse on the treacherous Eddystone Reef -- the very rocks that sank Digory's grandfather's ship years before.

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In late seventeenth-century England, eleven-year-old Digory, forced to leave his hometown after his father is lost at sea, becomes an apprentice to the architect Henry Winstanley, who built a lighthouse on the treacherous Eddystone Reef -- the very rocks that sank Digory's grandfather's ship years before.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Amy Fiske
Plagued by a recurring nightmare of a ship smashing into a reef, young Digory Beale wakes one morning to learn that his father's ship has wrecked in a storm. Because news travels slowly in eighteenth-century England, Digory's aunt dispatches him to Plymouth for news of his father's fate. After several narrow escapes en route, Digory makes it to Plymouth and learns that no one has survived the shipwreck. Orphaned and penniless, he nearly loses his own life when he is falsely accused of stealing. A fine gentleman steps from the crowd and offers to buy Digory's freedom. Digory suddenly finds himself apprenticed to Henry Winstanley, mad inventor and gadgeteer. Among Winstanley's many projects is a lighthouse constructed fourteen miles out to sea on the Eddystone Reef, known as the Widow Maker for the fifty ships it claims each year. Word arrives that the lighthouse is in dire peril with the storm season approaching. Winstanley and Digory embark on a dangerous mission to save the building, during what turns out to be the storm of the century. An author's note reveals Henry Winstanley to be a real historical figure, carefully researched by Woodruff. Although told from Digory's point of view, the story's clear focus and Woodruff's attention is Winstanley. Unfortunately Digory never becomes a fully developed, realistic character, a flaw that will make the book a difficult sell to its middle school audience. It nevertheless might appeal to fans of historic adventure stories. Reviewer: Amy Fiske
Children's Literature - Ginny Sautner
Digory Beale comes from a broken home. With his mother long dead and his father thought to be killed when the Flying Cloud crashed into the treacherous Eddystone Reef, Digory is alone in the world and uncertain of his future. Fearful of the sea and unable to contribute to his Aunt Alice's household of eleven children, he is literally cast out to make a way for himself. With two unexpected companions, a mongrel named Fishbone and his younger brother Cubby, he embarks on the adventure that will change his family's fate forever. With a shred of hope that their father lives, the brothers travel to Plymouth where their father's ship was thought to have crashed. Instead of encountering their father, they meet the mysterious and intriguing Henry Winstanely. Invited to join Sir Winstanely at his estate, Digory learns about his secret talent—art and drawing—a luxury that was never allowed at home. Digory and Cubby develop great respect for this imaginative genius who designs and invents unthinkable creations, so when the opportunity arises for the boys to help save Sir Winstanely's most favored project, his lighthouse on the Eddystone Reef, they leap at the chance to help. It is now that Digory learns what it truly means to be a hero: to be fearless. Reviewer: Ginny Sautner
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8- Life for Digory, 11, and Cubby, 9, is hard on the Cornwall coast in the late 1600s. After hearing that their father's ship has been lost, they are sent by their aunt to Plymouth 100 miles away to discover if their father survived. Without his income, she cannot afford to keep them. They receive discouraging news but are rescued by a fascinating man named Henry Winstanley of Littlebury, who is known as a jester due to his marvelous, somewhat whimsical inventions. Winstanley believes, however, that his greatest accomplishment is the lighthouse he designed and built on the Eddystone Reef, which was responsible for a tremendous loss of life and ships before the light was erected. Word comes to Winstanley that the light is in need of repairs and supplies so he and the brothers journey back to Plymouth only to discover that the worst storm of the century is approaching. This fascinating, well-written story is closely based on the life of the real Henry Winstanley. It introduces one of the leading inventors of the day and provides a glimpse, through the young brothers, of harshness of life for the common people during this period. The characters are finely drawn and the action is nonstop. Many of the short chapters are cliff-hangers, making the book a great read-aloud.-Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC

Kirkus Reviews
Woodruff spins a labored but engrossing tale around a lighthouse, its builder and a cataclysmic storm-all three drawn from history. Penniless and starving in Portsmouth in the wake of the sinking of their father's ship, Digory and his little brother Cubby are rescued by Henry Winstanley, a well-to-do merchant and inventor who has built the first lighthouse out on Cornwall's treacherous Eddystone Reef. A close rapport quickly develops, so that when Winstanley heads out to make repairs on the lighthouse in the teeth of a gale aptly dubbed the "Storm of the Century," Digory overcomes his fear of the sea and follows with a shipment of candles. The author lays portents and warnings into the plot with a heavy hand, builds to a wild and devastating climax and then wrenches events around to a more or less happy ending. Winstanley was a fascinating individual who doesn't get his due here, but Digory, despite his continual fretting, is a protagonist who actually seems to be his given age, and there's enough natural and human drama to carry readers along. (afterword, map) (Historical fiction. 10-12)
From the Publisher

"The characters are finely drawn and the action is nonstop."--SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

"Woodruff is best at capturing the perilous existence of the impoverished people on the Cornish coast, adding authenticity with many colorful local expressions."--BOOKLIST

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439677035
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,453,008
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.43 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

The bestselling author of GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SOCKS and THE RAVENMASTER'S SECRET, Woodruff has written more than twenty books for children, including picture books, historical fiction, and lighthearted fantasy. Her numerous school visits each year are popular with kids and teachers. The sequel to GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SOCKS, GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SPY, will be published in November 2010. She lives with her family in Martin's Creek, Pennsylvania.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013

    About the book.

    This book is entertaining and educational. This is probably the second best book I have read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2010


    Fearless is a great book that practically takes you to a whole new world long ago. It's almost as if your there with the characters. The book is very interesting and most of the time it's not something you can really guess what's going to happen. the only bad thing really is that you can kind of guess about the main idea. Other than that it's very surprising, suspenseful, and thrilling. It would be a great thing for a class to read together and help those who don't understand it. You will never forget it.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing Book

    This book is touching and educational. This is yet another masterpiece from Elvira Woodruff.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Book Review: Fearless by Elvira Woodruff

    In this text, a boy named Digory Beale first starts out in a small village named Mousehole with his now legal guardian, Aunt Alice. One day, without the annual wage from his father, Nicholas Beale, the family of fourteen must boot out Digory tp find his father. By doing this, the family will have one less mouth to feed (the family is extremely poor). Ypu would think that the boy would have another mode of transportation, but the year was 1703 and there were only three main ways: walking, sailing, and traveling by horse and carriage. Considering the money Digory had (

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2014


    I loved Elvira's work before but never on this level truely touching

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2013



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews

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