Title: The 290The 290
Author: Scott O’Dell
Pages: 118
Recommended Ages: 9-14
Star Rating: ★★★★

Winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal.

The Story.

Jim Lynne doesn’t trust his brother. Maybe he doesn’t have an exact reason for why he finds Ted shady, but there is no love lost between them. Which makes Jim doubly suspicious when Ted shows up with a deal that he promises will profit Jim. What has Ted ever cared about Jim’s well being?

As it turns out, Ted’s offer is little more than a request that Jim act as a spy. Ted’s heard reports that The 290, which is being constructed by the shipyard Jim apprentices with, is being built for the Confederate Navy. He wants Jim to confirm this rumor and give him additional detail concerning the size and armament of the ship.

But Jim refuses. What – turn traitor on his shipmates? Never! Besides, he’d rather like to sail on The 290 himself, when it sails out to do battle with the Yanks…

Discussion.

I knew that Britain had considered aiding the CSA about halfway through the war before finally settling on a position of neutrality. But I did not know that during her period of indecision she actually built a ship [which was eventually christened The Alabama] which was used to raid Union vessels and ports.

This story is all about the construction of that vessel, her escapades at sea and her eventual destruction. We follow her in the person of Jim Lynne who not only works on her construction, but also sails aboard her.

I really enjoyed all the parts of the story which dealt with the ship and the war, but there was one portion of the story which felt like an intrusion. It is when Jim travels to Port-au-Prince and redeems then sets free a shipload of slaves owned by his father. While an admirable piece of work, it felt like a definite sidetrack and one which didn’t really flow with the purpose of the story, which was to tell the history of the ship.

In the heat of battle, one man says he’d rather blow his ship to ‘h***’ then let the enemy taker her. [pg. 102]

Conclusion. An interesting, oft unexplored tale of the War Between the States.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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