CAST OFF by Eve Yohalem

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When Petra flees from home, she knows she can never return.  Her father chases her through the streets, brandishing a fire poker.  If he catches her, he will kill her.  If she goes to the police, they will return her to him.  Desperate, she stows aboard a ship leaving Amsterdam for Indonesia, knowing full well that if she is discovered, she may be cast overboard.  Fortunately, the person who discovers her is Bram, a biracial ship’s boy who knows exactly what it’s like to live as a second class citizen.  Friendship makes life easier for both Petra and Bram, but a six month voyage at sea is filled with so many dangers that one wrong choice could lead to a watery grave.

This adventure-filled story about two kids seeking freedom will appeal to middle graders who love historical fiction.  As seafaring adventures go, it lacked the intensity of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman and the tight story arc of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.  But the setting was vivid; you get a sense of being trapped on a crowded ship for six months.  Definitely worth reading if you like middle grade historical adventures.

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