A brave girl sailing out on the wild blue sea

THE WANDERER By Sharon Creech HarperCollins 305 pp., $15.95 Ages 9-12

If you haven't started your summer reading list yet, pick up your paper and pen. Better yet, start a captain's log as you set sail on some new literary adventures, launching with "The Wanderer," by Sharon Creech.

Like her Newbery Medal-winning "Walk Two Moons," "The Wanderer" stars a girl who embarks on a courageous journey (literal and metaphorical, of course) and reconciles herself to a mysterious event of the past.

Sophie proudly announces, "I am thirteen, and I am going to sail across the ocean. Although I would like to go alone - alone! alone! flying over the water - I'm not." Instead, she's brave enough to travel for weeks with a mostly inexperienced crew of men and boys (three uncles and two cousins) aboard a 45-foot sailboat bound for England, where her grandfather awaits them.

Like an old seafaring captain, Sophie spins yarns about Bompie to pass the time. Her cousins wonder how she, recently adopted into the family, knows more about their grandfather than they do. But they're even more curious about what happened to her real parents - a story her uncles say only she can tell.

During the first segment of their journey, Sophie's biggest challenge is to secure meaningful work assignments on the boat besides scrubbing or cooking. She quickly convinces the others that she's more than seaworthy by fixing the bilge. And she's the only one brave enough to make repairs at the top of the mast as the boat sways over the surging sea.

The motley crew encounters a dangerously raging and relentless storm that tests everyone's courage. If any had known this force-10 gale was in store, "with winds at 50 miles an hour and waves like walls of water pounding day and night," they surely would have stayed safely on shore.

When Sophie finally recounts the story of her real parents, her bravery shines as brightly as the daystar after a storm.

Sophie and her cousin narrate the fast-paced novel through alternate journal entries - and it would be great fun to embark on the voyage taking turns reading alternate chapters with a reading mate. The shifts between her poetic and descriptive prose and his more chatty and playful writing give the text a tidal rhythm like the ocean itself.

Sophie writes, "The sea, the sea, the sea. It rolled and rolled and called to me. Come in, it said, come in." This inviting book will encourage the readers on your crew to take an early plunge into their summer reading.

*Enicia Fisher is a freelance writer in Elsah, Ill.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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