Graveyard of the Sea

8 January 2009

Graveyard of the Sea
by Penny Draper
Published by Coteau Books for Kids
Review by Karen Lawson
$8.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-3975

Author Penny Draper has set her latest young adult novel, Graveyard of the Sea on Vancouver Island in the year 1906. This historical piece of fiction is the fourth book in the Disaster Strikes! Series and focuses on what life was like as a lighthouse keeper. This was a time before technology and there was just the keeper and his lamp to watch and warn the ships that sailed the often dangerous and rough seas in this part of Canada.

The author tells a story about a real heroine by the name of Minnie Patterson. Minnie is a lighthouse keeper who was instrumental is saving those aboard a doomed ship that ran aground. Because this novel is based on true facts and actual people, the author has created a fictional character by the name of Nell and uses her to tell the reader about what it is like to live in a lighthouse as well as to share Minnie’s tale.

Nell is a unique little girl who lives a very unusual and isolated life. She lives with her lighthouse keeper father and grandfather in a very remote area by the sea. This is the only life she has ever known and she is content and happy to take care of her family and does not feel lonely or cut off from the outside world. She appreciates and enjoys the rugged landscape that she calls home and has no desire experience anything different. But circumstances change and Nell is forced to step outside her safety zone and deal with challenging situations and events.

Nell may live an isolated life but she is nevertheless independent and intelligent. She has an artistic gift and communicates through her art. When she learns to communicate with Morse Code it opens up a whole new world for her. The telegraph is the link which connects her to other lighthouse keepers and she makes friends quickly and establishes close relationships with other people who use the telegraph to communicate. She forms a special relationship with Charlie who introduces her to his native culture. She also becomes close friends with Minnie’s daughter Kate, and Douglas, who teaches her how to become proficient using the telegraph.

Nell is a resourceful, brave little girl who copes with tragic events and problems in her life with fearless strength and maturity. Readers will enjoy sharing her experiences and genuinely like her gentle spirit.


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