As the subtitle of “The Mary Celeste” indicates, this story of a ship whose crew disappeared while it was at sea is, indeed, “An Unsolved Mystery from History”. This picture storybook was written by Jane Yolen, an award-winning children’s author, and her daughter, Heidi. This book is a wonderful introduction to historical research and problem solving for 8 to 12 year olds. The book’s design, the illustrations by Roger Roth, and the way in which the authors present the story of the Mary Celeste are what makes this book so intriguing.
The narrator is a girl of about 10 or 11 who wants to be a detective like her father who tells her, “no mystery is impossible to solve as long as you have enough clues.” She proceeds to tell the story of the Mary Celeste with illustrations and text focused on the discovery by another cargo ship’s captain and the search for answers as to why the ship was abandoned and what happened to the ship’s crew.
Finding no one on board, Captain Morehouse decides to take the ship in for salvage. In the 1870′s there were many theories about what had happened but no one knew for sure. Even today, no one knows for sure.
The non-fiction features in this fiction book makes research FUN! You’ll find a map, factual background information on lined pages of a spiral notebook, and vocabulary words on post-it-notes that relate to the mystery. It’s not often young readers have the opportunity to learn some history, increase their vocabulary, gain experience in problem solving, and enjoy an intriguing story all at the same time. You and your keiki will enjoy learning about the Mary Celeste and coming up with your very own theories!