Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Review: Avis Dolphin

Publish April 17, 2015

Readers interested in a tragically pivotal event in First World War nautical history won’t be disappointed with Avis Dolphin, the latest children’s book by award-winning author, Frieda Wishinsky. This thrilling account of the real-life adventure of twelve-year-old, Avis Dolphin, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, a British ocean liner making its 101st return trip across the Atlantic when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the English coast on May 7, 1915. We first meet Avis Dolphin on May 1, 1915, in New York City. She’s lonely and scared, waiting to board the Lusy with cabin mates Hilda Ellis and Sarah Smith, two nurses working at her mother’s “home for the sick and aged” in Canada. With her father dead, Avis is heading overseas to live with her grandparents in Worcester, England. As the war rages in Europe, Avis is worried about the rumoured German U-boats lurking near the British shores. But the Lusy, with its decadent meals, lavish interior, and spectacular vistas, soon wins her over. So does Ian Holbourn, the kind Scottish professor who befriends her. The two become inseparable, encountering a fearless, stubborn captain, German stowaways, and quirky passengers. And the professor’s magical tales of Foula (a remote Shetland island) delight Avis, helping her cope with their uncertain futures. Avis’s unforgettable journey of friendship, courage, tragedy, and hope will captivate and resonate with readers. And Willow Dawson’s enchanting graphic novel-style illustrations of Professor Holbourn’s stories weave a bewitching story-within-a-story. Wishinsky’s well-paced plot, age-appropriate dialogue, and richly detailed passages will lure readers in from page one.  But it’s the ever-growing sense of immediacy in Avis’s voice that convincingly transports readers to that fateful place and time. Wishinsky has crafted an indelible, moving narrative, at once capturing not only the initial palpable excitement and grandeur of the voyage, but also the growing confusion, anxiety, and eventual terror and catastrophic loss of this history-altering event.  

Avis Dolphin

Frieda Wishinsky
Groundwood Books/House of Anansi
ISBN 13: 9781554984893

Jennifer D. Foster
Jennifer D. Foster Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor, mentor, and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She loves kidlit, greyhounds, Japan, pumpkin pie and yard sales.  

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