Prairie Fire Review - Ghost Voyages IV

Reviewed by: Donna Gamache

This is the fourth book in the Ghost Voyage series by Edmonton writer Cora Taylor. These are "time travel" stories in which Jeremy uses old stamps and a magical magnifying glass left to him by his grandfather, Harv, to make brief trips back to old ships with various explorers of historical figures. (He can travel to newer times with new stamps, but prefers the old ones.)

In previous adventures eleven-year-old Jeremy travelled with John Cabot and with Captain James Cook, as well as adventuring on the Bluenose, and on the Northcote in Saskatchewan during the Riel Rebellion. In Ghost Voyages IV his stamp travelling takes him to Jacques Cartier's second voyage in 1535-36, and to the early explorations of Samuel de Champlain in Acadia in 1606. He also makes brief trips, using newer stamps, on a Venetian gondola and to the Sydney-Hobart yacht race of 1998, which occurred during a terrible storm.

In his time travels, Jeremy is invisible but not necessarily safe. He must avoid being shot by spooked sailors, or being washed overboard in stormy weather, or left ashore if he ventures off the ship. He also discovers that if he drops something from his pocket, such as his knife, that item then becomes visible and could give him away. In past trips Jeremy has encountered two other stamp-travelling boys--his grandfather from the past, and Jeremy's own grandson, from the year 2056. These two reappear in Jeremy's newest travels.

The time-travel, however, is only part of these books. Jeremy's life in Edmonton in the present is what ties the travels together. Present-day problems in previous books have included an absentee father and disputes over child custody. The newest problem involves his mother and her sudden infatuation with a new boyfriend, Ike, whom she met while Jeremy was away visiting his father. Jeremy doesn't trust Ike, and he may have good reason to feel that way.

Ghost Voyages IV should be an interesting book for young readers aged eight and up. The voyages are exciting, with plenty of historical information included. However, I believe it is the present story that will most involve young readers, because there is an emotional appeal there that is lacking in the historical adventures, where Jeremy is a mere bystander. Young readers will also enjoy Jeremy's use of his computer to try to solve his problems by e-mailing, instant messaging, and surfing the web for information on the historical figures. Perhaps just one voyage -- either Cartier's or Champlain's -- could have been dealt with in more detail to obtain more emotional appeal in the historical sections.

It is not essential to have read the previous books, as Voyages IV stands alone, and the time-travel method and previous trips are briefly explained. However, readers might prefer to read them in order since there are frequent references to the earlier stories.

Cora Taylor is one of Canada's best-known children's authors and has won many awards for her writing.

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