Powder Monkey is the second book by Donna McDine that has taken me on a journey to the past. This 23 page book for young readers packs an emotional punch that holds you in its grip from the first word to the last and the beautiful illustrations by K.C. Snider really bring the story to life.
Twelve-year-old Tommy Kitt and his older brother are forcibly taken from their parents and the only life they’ve ever known by the Royal Navy Press Gangs and forced into hard labour on a ship at sea. Tommy is understandably overwhelmed and scared and that feeling is only reinforced by the often harsh treatment of the young boys. Tommy learns quickly though that the best way to stay out of trouble is to do your work without complaint. For Tommy his days consist of cleaning toilets and the mangers below deck where he most likes to be as it is peaceful. However they also have to train for battle and finally that day comes and Tommy follows his role as a powder monkey running back and forth to bring gun powder to the sailors. Most certainly this isn’t the life Tommy wants but he’s determined to stay alive and do that he knows he has to follow the rules.
Powder Monkey may be short but it tells such a poignant story in those few pages. I felt Tommy’s fear and hopelessness and also his hope at a better future down the line. The book is recommended for 8-12 year old kids but I think I’d put it towards the 12 year age range only because it is more of a dark tale and maybe a harder read for the younger ones. Yet at the same time it’s important for young children to learn about history and how much different life was for some kids in times past. For me it was enlightening as I’d never heard of the Royal Navy Press Gangs or the term powder monkey so I was able to learn something that led me to wanting to know more.
Once again Donna McDine highlights a time in history with the Royal Navy Press Gangs and how children were affected by it. A recommended read for parents and children that could lead to some really important discussions and life lessons.
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Source: Digital review copy provided by the publisher. No compensation was received. All thoughts and opinions are that of the blog owner.