‘Tis the season for vacations and car trips. Our family is heading out soon for a good long drive to the mountains. I’m no further in the preparations than thinking about which recorded books we might take on our journey. (This is easily one of the most important decisions of any trip we take.)
I asked for requests at dinner last night, which resulted in a trip down memory lane of past vacations and the books we listened to in the car. Red Reading Boots will profile a few of our family favorites these next few weeks—know that the books themselves are terrific, but the audio versions take these great books to another marvelous level.
One of our favorites was last year’s vacation feature by L.A. Meyer: Bloody Jack: Being An Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy. This is the first book in a long series about Mary “Jacky” Faber, one of the most exciting and impetuous young heroines to be found in children’s literature.
I learned about Jacky Faber on Book-A-Day Almanac. Anita Silvey so enthusiastically recommended the audio version of the second book in the series, Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady, that I immediately procured the first two audio books in the series from the library for our vacation drive last year. There are many more in the series—we could finish out our family vacations on these books, I suppose. Nobody in the car would complain, which, as we all know, is a miraculous thing when you’re driving for hours and hours a day in a car together.
To say that these are “curious” adventures and misadventures is an understatement. When we first meet Mary Faber, she is a young girl scavenging and barely surviving on the streets of eighteenth century London. She’s part of a street gang, but she has dreams of another life. That she thinks disguising herself as a boy and signing on a British warship in search of pirates on the high seas is a good “life choice” tells you quite a bit about her right at the outset of the series.
The hilarity, anxiety, fright, and unrequited hope that the reader experiences as we follow Jacky on her curious (mis)adventures makes for quite the roller-coaster-like read. Or perhaps I should say roller-coaster-like “listen.” Katherine Kellgren, the actress who reads these stories is fantastic. She has a variety of accents and voices at her disposal, and she can sing a sea shanty like no one else. (There are lots of sea shanties and other songs in these books.) Kellgren’s voice embodies the raucous, delightful, and admirable character of Jacky Faber. I’ve since read (with my eyes) a few of the subsequent Bloody Jack novels and it is Kellgren’s definitive voice I hear in my head. I will not torture my family with my inferior reading—these are books we will listen to together.
Full-disclosure: the Bloody Jack series is PG-13. We listened when the kids were 10 and 16. Three of us cringed during a few of the scenes. However, we also had the opportunity to talk about lecherous old men, developing bodies, love and sex, right and wrong—we were locked in the car together going 70 mph down the road! There was no escape! (Also, many of the cringe-inducing scenes flew pretty far over the youngest’s head—euphemisms and British slang helped.)
The miles fly by listening to Jacky Faber’s antics and adventures. Plus, there’s quite a bit of history—British and American, mostly, but a fair amount of world history and geography. A person could feel righteous and smart listening to these sublime adventures on vacation!