Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ships Boy. L.A. Meyer, (2002).
NY: Harcourt. ISBN: 0152167315
This book, in a word, is ship-shape! Bloody Jack is the first in a series of books about the adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, an orphan from the streets of London, who assumes the identity of a boy to escape the fight to survive on the city streets. This cross-dressing endeavor is otherwise known to Jacky and her captive audience as "The Deception." Her only skill to speak of is the rare ability to read and write, and more than anything, she fears dying and having her body sold to doctors for medical research, as happens with most street urchins in the London of 1797. She gets a job as one of six ships boys aboard a pirate-fighting naval ship, and thus begins her life of adventure on the open seas…but there is a catch! Since carrying a fair, sweet lass aboard a ship is bad luck, Jacky's got to keep the crew from uncovering "The Deception." Jacky is clever, inventive, and scrappy. She fashions and wears a codpiece, finds secret ship nooks in which to make a lady friendly bathroom (i.e. to pee sitting down), and makes herself useful during squirmishes, earning her the moniker "Bloody Jack." But some things can't be stopped, and Aunties Flow and Curves join her aboard the HMS Dolphin, making "The Deception" all the more tricky, necessary, and complicated when she develops a big ole crush on her fellow ship's boy, Jaime, and a big creepster of a pedophile develops a crush on Jacky. With a big bad French pirate named LeFievre on the loose, Jamie convinced he may be gay, an undeniable talent for sewing, and "The Deception" getting trickier by the day, Jacky certainly has her hands full!
This historical fiction novel doesn't take liberties where it easily could; Jacky isn't a feminist, even though she knows she can do what all the men can do. Meyer sticks with the mentality of the time, even if Jacky herself is an historical anomaly. I can totally get behind the slangy Cockney narrative voice ("Today, after our duties, I'm sitting down with me shiv in my lap and I'm carving a rooster's head on the hilt of it in remembrance of Charlie whose shiv it was original."), which adapts not just to reflect where Jacky comes from, but how far she's come and where she's going, and reflects just what a little character she is. I can't wait to read the next one!
Best for: This would probably be most enjoyed by girl's ages 12-15 who like adventure, historical fiction, and pirates (especially due to that visit from Aunties Flow and Curves). I'd also recommend it to fans of the Tamora Pierce Alana books.
Book talk hook: I'd give a short summary of the plot and then read the bathing scene, Jacky's first major deception as a boy aboard a ship, when the Captain orders the ships boys scrubbed down and Jacky strategically places soap suds to disguise herself below decks. GET IT? Chortles abound.