Review: Heroes of the Surf by Elisa Carbone

heroes of the surf

Heroes of the Surf by Elisa Carbone, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

In the nineteenth century, the Pliny is on its way from South America to New York City.  Aboard the ship are many families, including two young friends Anthony and Pedro, who spend the journey pretending to be pirates.  The boys are having a grand time together until one night when a storm hits.  Even the lifeboats are of no use, as they are smashed by the growing waves.  The night goes silent when the engines stop working, leaving them at the mercy of the storm.  Then the captain sends up a distress beacon.  Soon there are people on the shore and a cannon is aimed in their direction.  Could it be pirates after all?  Instead of a cannonball, a rescue line and buoy are shot onto the ship.  It takes a harrowing zip line to safety until all of the crew and passengers are safe and warm at the Long Branch Life Saving Station, a precursor to the Coast Guard.

Carbone writes with a lot of detail here, exploring this story based on the real disaster of this ship.  Told through the point of view of Anthony, the story stays riveting and thrilling right through to the end.  From the drama of the storm itself to the striking rescue efforts, this book is filled with tension and adventure.  Carbone also carefully builds the world of the 19th century, making sure that readers know where they are in history and how brave the efforts of the rescuers are.

Carpenter completes the historical tone of the book with her own detailed images of the 19th century.  From the clothing to the mannerisms, this book clearly reveals the time and place of its setting.  Carpenter does not shy away from the drama, instead leaning into it with her wild expanses of stormy water, the drama of almost slipping off the deck, and the wonder of the rescue.

A powerful mix of history and adventure, this fictional book will be popular with pirate and nonfiction readers.   Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.