The Wreck of the Argyll

160p. Cargo. May 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781908885517.
Gr 5–7—Set in 1915 Scotland during World War I, this novel centers on 12-year-old Nancy Caird, a fiercely patriotic Dundee girl without a way to contribute to the war effort. Her 14-year-old sister Nelly has left school to work in a jute factory making ropes for army tents, her mom is a cleaner at the Royal Infirmary, and her dad spends his nights baking and days teaching military cooks. Her family rarely notices that Nancy exists. She soon discovers that one of her teachers, Mr. Simpson, makes a regular nightly trek to an abandoned building, and she's convinced he's a German spy. She's soon joined by Jamie "Howff" Balfour. The only adult who seems to believe the kids is Nancy's uncle Stuart. Alternating with Nancy's story are chapters that feature midshipman Harry Melville of the HMS Argyll, a warship that was part of Great Britain's defense against the Imperial German Navy. It's Harry's first assignment out of Dartmouth, the Naval College. The ship is supposed to go up the east coast but the North Sea is so full of Germans, they are forced to journey through the west coast of Scotland, which is described as a jagged mess. Harry is excited yet nervous about using his "book learning." The fates of Harry and Nancy are ominously tied through a secret German plot. Suspense slowly builds as Nancy pursues her theory, and the pacing reaches a fever pitch as her suspicions become confirmed. This is an appealing read for perusers of historical fiction, especially fans of the "I Survived" titles by Lauren Tarshis. Readers will relate to Jamie's impulsiveness, his earnest desire to set things right, and the pleasure he takes in his friendship with Nancy. Nancy's guilt in making Jamie feel bad for his father's abandonment and mother's drug problem will also ring true.
VERDICT A satisfying World War I mystery with age-appropriate themes that will resonate with young readers.

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