HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Sailing Alone Around the World
Author: Joshua Slocum
Illustrators: Thomas Fogarty and George Varian
Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classic, republished in 2005
Related website: www.barnesandnoble.com/classics (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Slocum, Joshua. Sailing Alone Around the World (originally published in 1900; republished in 2005 by Barnes and Noble Books, 123 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY 10011). On April 24, 1895, at the age of 51, Joshua Slocum, a Nova Scotia born, naturalized U. S. seaman and adventurer, set sail in his 37-foot sloop the Spray, a derelict boat that he had rebuilt himself. Three years and 46,000 miles later, he returned as the first person to sail around the world alone. Then in 1900 he wrote a sailing memoir about his single-handed global circumnavigation. It tells how he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Gibraltar, stopping at the Azores along the way, changed his mind about his route through the Suez Canal, and went back across the Atlantic, down along the coast of South America, through the Straits of Magellan, and into the Pacific Ocean, where his further stops included Juan Fernandez Island, Samoa, and various places in Australia.
From Australia, Slocum’s route took him into the Indian Ocean with stops at Keeling Cocos Islands, Mauritius, and a couple of places in what is now South Africa. Then moving around Cape Horn back into the Atlantic, he stopped at St. Helena and Ascension Islands, sailed up the coast of South America into the Caribbean Sea—while the Spanish-American War in Cuba was going on, and finally arrived in Newport, RI, on June 27, 1898. The story first appeared in serial form in Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, a popular periodical published in New York. It tells of the perils of ocean sailing such as fog, gales, danger of collision, loneliness, doldrums, navigation, fatigue, and gear failure. There were also the dangers of coastal navigation including pirates, embankment, shoals, coral reefs, stranding, shipwreck, and attack by savages. For example, in Tierra del Fuego he was warned that he might be attacked by the Yahgan Indians in the night, so he sprinkled thumbtacks on the deck, and was awakened in the middle of the night by yelps of pain.
What makes the feats of both sailing around the world alone and then writing about it so amazing is that Slocum attended school for only three years. However, having been at sea since he was sixteen and sailed a variety of vessels to most of the world’s major ports, he brought with him a wealth of nautical experience. There are a few mentions of drinking wine or other alcoholic beverages, but nothing else objectionable, and Slocum makes many references to God as the Maker and his protector. The style of writing would make it of interest mainly to teens and adults. But there is a lot of fascinating reading. I saw where years ago an edition of the book was used as a geography text for children in schools. Barnes and Noble was having a buy-two-get-one-free-sale on their own books. I picked up The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and then noticed Sailing Alone Around the World for my free one. I’d never heard of it before, but I’m glad I found it. In November of 1909, Slocum set sail from Martha’s Vineyard in the Spray and was never heard from again, believed to have been lost at sea.