The Odyssey of Ben O’Neal
Harcourt has reissued the Cape Hatteras Trilogy, first published in the 1970s. Set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina at the end of the 19th century, they tell the story of castaway Teetoncey and Ben O’Neal, the boy who finds her.
The Odyssey of Ben O’Neal finds Ben, now motherless, trying to go to sea as a cabin boy, having safely, he thinks, seen Teetoncey on her way back to London. Teetoncey, however, has other plans, and Ben’s getaway won’t be as clean as he would like.
I read these books as a child when they were first published, and they engaged me as much now as they did then. The Outer Banks in 1898 was a remote and wonderful place. Accessible only by boat, its inhabitants have their own vocabulary—“fleech” and “mommicked” being just two of the new words I learned. Taylor has a keen ear for both dialect and dialogue and each character comes memorably to life. He also shares how deeply the sea is in the blood of each of them, except for Ben’s mother Rachel, who fears and hates it for taking her husband and another son. While I loved the developing relationship between Ben and Teetoncey, Taylor has plenty here for boys as well about ships, salvage, and going to sea. I’ll be sharing these books with my nephew when he is old enough. Ages 9-12