Victorian Tales: The Sea Monsters
1838. History is about to be made. Two steam ships will cross the Atlantic for the very first time. One is the Great Western, built by the famous engineer Isambard Brunel. The other is the much smaller Sirius, which has sails as well as paddles.Ben Leary, a boiler room boy, is desperate for the Great Western to reach New York before the Sirius. His cousins, Grace and Patrick, are on board the Sirius, and he wants to beat them to it.
But disaster strikes the Great Western. First, there is a fire in the boiler room and then Mr Brunel falls down the stairs and is injured.
To Grace and Patrick’s delight, the Sirius sets off. Soon, they are four days ahead. Surely they can get there first! But the Sirius begins to run out of coal, and the children know that the Great Western can’t be far behind. If they use the sails, it would mean that they’d lose the title of the first steam ship to cross the Atlantic. Then Grace comes up with a brilliant idea …
What I particularly enjoyed about this book was all the little historically accurate details: what a steam ship journey was like, how hot it was working in the boiler room, how dangerous it was climbing the mast, and so on.
This epic race really happened, and the David beat Goliath in the way the book describes. I enjoyed the way that the story switched from Ben, aboard the Great Western, to Grace and Patrick aboard the Sirius which keeps up the dramatic tension. Helen Flook’s terrific illustrations set off the story perfectly. Children age 7 plus should enjoy this book.
This story is about a race between two ships, but it is also about how people travelled three thousand miles before they had the engines we have now. Getting the ship to move was very hard work. There were bits that were frightening like when there were fires. When they ran out of coal, they burnt things which were made of wood, which was good thinking. I was glad that they all got there safely in the end. I would have liked to be on board the Sirius because it was the small ship, and it is named after a star that I can see if I stay up late. The pictures were funny but interesting because the ships looked complicated with lots of rigging and places to keep the coal for the fires.
William Stockton, age 7