Written by Michael Northrop
Review by Jenna Pavleck

Adventure, suspense, and horror abound in this compelling middle-grade science fiction novel. The ship Polaris has set sail in the 1830s on a voyage of exploration and scientific discovery. Upon making landfall in the Amazon, some of the crew members disembark to investigate the new lands. Unfortunately, only half of the landing party makes it back to the vessel amid rumors of strange horrors in the jungle.

The ship sets sail again immediately. However, with a mysterious plague spreading among the surviving sailors, the rising tension leads to a mutiny. The remaining adults take the only lifeboat and abandon the ship, leaving behind several young deckhands and a botanist’s assistant who were locked in the captain’s cabin during the scuffle.

Abandoned by the crew and alone at sea, the six children must now prepare for the long voyage home to America. They are determined not to give up, but strong winds, dangerous storms, and the difficulty of manning the large ship with such a small crew leads to an intense struggle for survival. As if facing the perils of the sea wasn’t enough, they soon realize there are also strange smells and movements in the darkness of the decks below. They may not be alone on the ship after all! A monster is lurking beneath their feet.

Northrop gives us glimpses into the thoughts of each of the young sailors as they deal with loss, danger, and conflict—ultimately bonding them together in friendship. The characters are well-developed, the plot line is filled with action, and the details of this nautical adventure feel authentic. It is a thrilling tale of drama and action on the high seas that should entertain both males and females in its target audience.