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Castaways of the Flying Dutchman


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About the Author

Brian Jacques was born in Liverpool in 1939. He left school at age fifteen and found work as a docker, a truck driver, a policeman and a stand-up comic, all before turning his attention to writing. He wrote his first novel, Redwall, for the children at a school for the blind in Liverpool. Since 1986, his descriptive style of writing has captivated readers from age 8 to 80. His books have won international awards and acclaim and have been made into a TV series.


Gr 5-8-This novel has a split personality. It begins with flair in 1620 in Copenhagen, where the sinister Dutch sea captain Vanderdecken begins an ill-fated journey aboard the Flying Dutchman. Also onboard is young Neb, a stowaway who is immediately discovered and put to work. The crazed captain, cursing God, forces them to sail the ship around Cape Horn in a horrible storm. An angel bearing a sword appears and dooms the ship and its inhabitants to an eternity of ghostly sailing; Neb and his dog, however, receive the gift of eternal life, the ability to read one another's thoughts, and the duty to roam the world and help others in need. After a brief sojourn in Tierra del Fuego, the story jumps forward to England in 1896, where the boy and his wisecracking dog, now calling themselves Ben and Ned, help save a village from being demolished. From this point on, the novel reads like an old-fashioned children's mystery, with all the good-hearted villagers pitching in, guided by Ben, to find the missing land deeds that would foil the plans of a black-hearted industrialist. Esoteric clues, buried treasure, village bullies, an absentminded librarian, and nice old ladies create a cozy, claustrophobic atmosphere that will make readers wonder what the Flying Dutchman had to do with anything-except for giving Ben nightmares. The supernatural aspects seem out of place and superfluous. Readers who are pulled in by the exciting sea adventure may well abandon the book once it segues to the slower, longer section ashore.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Well known for his Redwall books (over a dozen volumes detailing the quests and feasts of various plucky woodland creatures), Jacques here turns his attention to the human world, and his fans will not be disappointed. Readers led by the title and cover art to expect a briny swashbuckler may be surprised to find that the bulk of the story consists of an ambling scavenger hunt set in a cozy English village. Pure-hearted enough to escape the curse that befalls the crew of the legendary Flying Dutchman, a boy and his dog are instead granted immortality and sent forth to "spread peace and joy" throughout the world. Two centuries later, in 1896, the ageless Ben and Ned (the latter is the dog) land in Chapelvale, a quaint village threatened with industrialization by a passel of nasty developers and ruled by a gang of juvenile delinquents. With the help of the villagers, the duo conducts a fairly contrived search (one clue is even written in invisible ink) for the ancient land title that will save Chapelvale from its grim fate. Though most of the characters are bipeds, the story doesn't veer much from the Redwall formula. Ultimately, it doesn't much matter whether the bumbling thugs sent from London to intimidate the Chapelvale populace are weasels or humansÄJacques's fans will be tickled by the characters' goofy slapstick regardless of their genus. The care taken with design (among other features, line drawings are set niftily into the first page of each chapter) adds to the appeal. All ages. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"In Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, Brian Jacques takes a bold and brilliant creative step. Using the legend of a never-ending voyage, he enriches, deepens, and gives new meaning to it. He combines ample measures of suspense, fantasy, and mystery, of poetry and great poignancy, and the emotional impact is powerful and unforgettable. It's exciting to see a front-rank author rise to a new challenge-and his readers are the fortunate beneficiaries." -Lloyd Alexander

"The swashbuckling language brims with color and melodrama; the villains are dastardly and stupid; and buried treasure, mysterious clues, and luscious culinary descriptions (generally involving sweets) keep the pages turning." -Booklist

"Well known for his Redwall books, Jacques here turns his attention to the human world, and his fans will not be disappointed....Ultimately, it doesn't much matter whether the bumbling thugs sent from London to intimidate the Chapelvale populace are weasels or humans--Jacques's fans will be tickled by the characters' goofy slapstick regardless of their genus." -Publishers Weekly

"Sophisticated readers...will come away with images and characters who are impossible to forget." -School Library Journal

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