The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle starts out slowly and then builds to a series of shocks. Of all the novels I teach, it is the best at bringing students out of slouch position and to the edge of their seats.
Avi’s novel about a proper young lady’s high seas transition to a sailor is set in the 1830’s. For many readers, it is their first encounter with historical fiction. The words are challenging and the setting unfamiliar. There are a lot of undistinguishable characters and my students always want to give up. I have to remind them to trust me as a reader; I know what books they will love.
About a third of the way into the book, the plot picks up and Charlotte becomes more likeable. A series of tragedies gets the reader hooked and the students eventually spend every class minute that is not dedicated to reading the novel, begging to read the novel.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a great read aloud because it encourages predictions and opportunities to discuss how characters grow and change. I believe it is currently being made into a movie, so the time to read it with a class is now, before they already know all the plot twists.