HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Red Sails to Capri
Author: Ann Weil
Illustrator: C. R. Falls
Publisher: Puffin Books, republished 1988
ISBN-13: 978-0670592135 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0670592137 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0140328585 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0140328580 Paperback
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10-14
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Weil, Ann. Red Sails to Capri (Published in 1952 by Viking Juvenile, an imprint of Viking Penguin Inc., a division of Penguin Group Book USA Inc., 10 W. 23rd St., New York City, NY 10010; republished in 1988 by Troll Associates). It is 1826. and fourteen year old Michele Pagano lives with his parents who operate an inn on the island of Capri off the coast of Italy near Naples. Among his friends are Angelo, a fisherman, and Pietro, a boy his own age. One day a boat with beautiful red sails lands at the Grande Marina pier, and out step three men who come to stay at the Paganos’ inn. They are Lord Derby, an English painter who seeks beauty; Herre Erik Nordstrom, a Danish philosopher who seeks truth; and Monsieur Jacques Tiersonnier, a French writer who seeks adventure. While touring the island, the visitors learn about a mysterious cove with a secret cave that was said to be inhabited by witches and monsters.
Of course, the visitors would like to explore it, but the cave is considered off-limits, and it is forbidden among the islanders even to discuss the cove. Can the three find anyone who is willing take them into the cave? When they go, what do they find there? And will they be able to get our again? Red Sails to Capri was a Newbery Honor Book in 1953. There are a few references to drinking wine, a common practice in that place and time. But the take-away that I get from the story is that there are times when conventional wisdom must be dispensed with and even flaunted in order to search for and find the truth, as Michele refuses to succumb to superstition and instead embraces the mystery of his beloved island.
One reviewer wrote, “A surprisingly bad book considering it was a Newbery Honor. The overuse of proper names in the dialog is so irritating it becomes a distraction.” The use of proper names in dialogue can be very helpful in following a discussion. I’ve read some books where the conversation goes on and on and on so that it’s hard to figure out who is saying what to whom. Another reviewer called it a “Sappy story that modern kids will find boring.” That is probably true for youngsters whose attention span has been determined by watching television and who can tolerate only books with bang-bang, shoot-‘em-up action. But for those who enjoy a good historical novel, especially one based on a true story with an exotic atmosphere, it will surely delight any age reader.