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Reviewed by:
  • Fearless
  • Elizabeth Bush
Woodruff, Elvira; Fearless;. Scholastic, 2008; [208p] ISBN 978-0-439-67703-5 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys M Gr. 4-7

Aunt Alice has offered shelter and board to her two motherless nephews, Digory and Cubby Beale, while their father is away at sea, but when word arrives that Mr. Beale's ship has sunk, she sends Digory off to Plymouth to confirm that his father's name is officially listed among the lost. Cubby sneaks away to join his older brother, and after losing their few possessions on the journey, they are narrowly saved from arrest (and probable hanging) for theft by a kindly man who takes Digory on as an apprentice. The Beales' benefactor turns out to be Squire Henry Winstanley, whose lighthouse at the infamous Eddystone Reef off England's southern coast has saved countless sailors' lives over the five years it has been standing. Readers who skip ahead to the closing notes will learn that Winstanley was a beloved eccentric and a doomed man—when the fictional brothers accompany him on his journey to make emergency repairs during what turns out to be the freakish storm of 1703, Winstanley won't be around for a happy ending. The boys fare better, though, finding their father, inheriting a cache of silver from Winstanley, and returning to their home in Mousehole, no longer reliant on Aunt Alice's meager hospitality. The Beale boys' story is little more than perfunctory, and it's stodgy and contrived; Winstanley is the real draw, but by capturing only the final few months of his life, Woodruff omits his design and improbable construction of the lighthouse and reduces the inventive marvels scattered around his estate to a simple inventory of mechanical wonders. Although this title does introduce readers to an historical figure whose hubris and heroism are worthy of further investigation, it never fully succeeds as either an adventure story or a fictionalized biography. In addition to the author's note, two glossaries and a bibliography are included.



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