Luke on the High Seas

Luke on the High Seas

by Bonnie Pryor, Bert Dodson

When Luke Reed left his prairie home to accompany Uncle Eli to Boston, he passed hordes of fortune seekers heading west to join the Gold Rush. It seems there's money to be made out there, and Uncle Eli doesn't want to miss out on any of it. In this new adventure, the duo is off again, this time making the perilous voyage by clipper ship to the goldfields of


When Luke Reed left his prairie home to accompany Uncle Eli to Boston, he passed hordes of fortune seekers heading west to join the Gold Rush. It seems there's money to be made out there, and Uncle Eli doesn't want to miss out on any of it. In this new adventure, the duo is off again, this time making the perilous voyage by clipper ship to the goldfields of California.

Luke and his friend Toby wonder how they'll keep themselves occupied on the long voyage, but not for long. Besides the everyday risks of stormy weather and shark-infested waters, they face a whole set of unexpected challenges, including a cabin boy with a mysterious secret and a pirate ship that they just can't seem to outrun.

Full of action and gripping suspense, this American Adventure will have readers turning the pages to find out how Luke braves the turbulent seas.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-A predictable read with stereotyped characters, yet one that will likely appeal to fans of the series. Continuing his previous adventures from Luke 1849-On the Golden Trail (Morrow, 1999), the 12-year-old protagonist leaves his prairie home to travel with his Uncle Eli on a ship from Boston, bound for California. The excitement begins soon after they depart, with readers easily picking up on the shady character of one of the passengers, Mr. Browning. Luke and his buddy Toby befriend the lonely cabin boy, whom they later discover is actually an orphan girl. She is headed for California to claim the gold mine that her father left her, but someone onboard wants to get to it first. As the voyage progresses, there are encounters with sharks and pirates, and some mystery as to who is actually the bad guy-but not much. Intermittent black-and-white sketches capture the drama and humor of the text. A slim read with a nice, neat conclusion.-Julie G. Shatterly, Gaston County Public Library, Gastonia, NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Veteran middle-grade novelist Pryor (Thomas in Danger, 1999, etc.) offers another sturdy, appealing entry in her growing series of historical novels set in 18th- and 19th-century America. Luke: 1849—On the Golden Trail (not reviewed) brought the young protagonist from his Iowa home "back East" to Boston. This new, fast-paced tale transports Luke from his uncle Eli's home in Boston and around the Horn on a swift Yankee Clipper Ship, en route to the California gold fields. Adult readers will probably find the plot a bit creaky: facile friendships between Luke and Toby (the son of Uncle Eli's former slave housekeeper Miss Maisie) and the orphaned cabin "boy" (who's really a girl in disguise), a conniving thief who conspires to hijack the ship, a mysterious letter (written in code) with directions to a secret California gold mine. However, the plot is leavened by the budding romance between Uncle Eli and the ship's perky Irish cook (Colleen) and further spiced with horrendous ocean storms, icebergs, pirates, and a chillingly authentic shark attack on the wounded Uncle Eli. Pryor is adept at such time-honored pot-boiler techniques like ambiguous yet intriguing chapter headings, cliffhanger chapter endings, and the well-placed (though sometimes ham-handed) foreshadowing of future plot twists. The five page afterword "More About . . ." provides historical context and expands on the situations and events in the novel. This is certainly not The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1990) but no matter: it will keep 'em engaged—and reading. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
American Adventures Series
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.69(d)
650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Preparing for Adventure

Mr. Appleby rapped sharply on the desk with his ruler. "Luke Reed," he said, "are you daydreaming again?"

From the second-floor windows of his uncle's large brick house, Luke had a perfect view of Boston Harbor. But gazing out, he'd been remembering the view from the tiny window of his own family's sod house in Iowa. There all he could see was endless, flat miles of tall prairie grass.

Luke focused on the large map spread out before him, and he sighed. "Sorry, Mr. Appleby. Geography gives me a headache."

Toby gave him a sympathetic glance, but Mr. Appleby only frowned. "You are far behind other boys your age. I promised your uncle that I would help you catch up."

Luke flushed as he picked up his pen and went back to work. Uncle Eli had given him his first chance at schooling. At home the nearest school had been miles away, and his father had needed his help on the farm. It was only because a hailstorm and a fire had ruined this year's crops that his father had finally allowed him to travel with his uncle to Boston.

Mr. Appleby tapped his ruler on the desk a second time. In return for tutoring Luke and Toby, he was to receive free passage to California when Uncle Eli's ship, the Eagle, set sail in a week.

The pale, bespectacled tutor didn't seem the sort to go prospecting for gold in California. But this was 1850, and the entire country was struck with gold fever. More than a hundred men had already paid for their passage on the Eagle, hoping to find gold at the end of the journey. Uncle Eli wasn't going to look for gold, though. He hoped to make his fortune by selling thegoods packed into the cargo hold of his ship.

Everything was right on schedule except for signing up a crew. So many men had already left Boston that Captain Andrews had to comb the streets, looking for experienced sailors.

Luke bent over his map, tracing the journey he would soon make. From Boston they would sail south, past the eastern coast of the United States and continuing across the equator. Except for a few islands, they would not see land again until they reached Rio de Janeiro, a city on the coast of Brazil. They would rest there for about a week, his uncle promised, because the next leg of the journey would be the worst. From Rio they would sail around the tip of South America, known for wild storms and rough water, before they headed north to California.

Luke filled in the names of all the countries he could remember. At last he finished the assignment and waited while Mr. Appleby checked his answers.

"Much better," the tutor said at last. "Only one mistake today." He pointed to a large island near the tip of Florida. "This island is called Cuba."

Mr. Appleby checked Toby's history assignment. "Excellent as usual," he said with a pleased nod.

Toby's mother was Uncle Eli's housekeeper. Although many people had slaves, Uncle Eli had given Toby and his mother their freedom. They lived in a small house at the back of Uncle Eli's estate. Since the day the boys had met three months ago, they had been fast friends.

"You are free for the day," Mr. Appleby announced. Luke and Toby jumped up so quickly they nearly knocked over their chairs and thundered down the stairs to the kitchen.

Colleen met them at the kitchen door. Her hands were at her waist, and a stern look crossed the cook's usually smiling face. "And don't you two sound like a herd of cattle coming down those stairs. Lucky for you Miss Maisie has gone to do a bit of shopping. She'd not tolerate such ungentlemanly behavior."

Miss Maisie was Toby's mother.

The boys hung their heads, but Luke peeked up enough to notice the twinkle in Colleen's eyes and to see her assistant, Lettie, giggling silently in the corner by the bake ovens.

"Saints preserve us, we ought to be horsewhipped," Toby said in an easy imitation of Colleen's Irish brogue.

She laughed and snapped her towel at him.

"None of your sass, young man, or you'll not be getting any of the cherry pie I made this morning. Now you two sit there at the table."

Luke sat meekly as he was ordered. Colleen served them a big plate of boiled beef cooked with cabbage and potatoes. Dessert was, as she had promised, a huge piece of cherry pie.

"That was wonderful," Luke said, finally pushing himself away from the table.

"Has word come from your parents?" Colleen asked as she started washing the dishes.

Luke nodded. His face clouded with homesickness for a moment as he thought of his parents and brothers and sisters back home. None of them could read or write, but Mr. Kline at the general store had written down the letter. "Father isn't too pleased at my wanting to go to California, but he hopes I'll get tired of traveling and want to come home."

"You've already done more traveling than most folks ever do." Toby counted on his fingers. "Let's see. Just to come to Boston, you traveled by horseback, barge, stagecoach, and train."

"Do you think your father is right?" Colleen dried her hands on her apron and waited for Luke's answer.

"I do miss my family," Luke said honestly, "but there are so many things to see."

"And draw," Toby added. "I never saw a fellow so determined to draw everything he sees."

Colleen put her arm around Luke's shoulders. "Luke here is going to be a famous painter someday."

Luke blushed, but Toby nodded. "I think so, too. Did your father like the picture you painted of your uncle's ship?" he asked.

"Pa said he was going to pin it to the wall in the new house they're building," Luke answered. "Since he doesn't much approve of a fellow wanting to be an artist, those are pretty strong words."

Luke on the High Seas. Copyright � by Bonnie Pryor. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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