At Ocean's Edge
Susan Chalker Browne
Illustrations by Mel D'Souza
Creative Publishers, 2003, $9.95, 1-894294-63-7
It is a windy day on Cape Spear, Newfoundland. Ellen Cantrell's father is the lighthouse keeper on the Cape and it soon becomes clear that his services may be needed, for a northeaster may be on the way. Two ships lie off the island, anchored and hoping that a gale isn't going to blow them onto the deadly sharp rocks offshore. Soon Ellen's family is preparing for all possibilities, including possibly having to care for the crews of the two ships. As they go about their jobs the family tells Tom, Ellen's visiting cousin, about famous gales that have hit Cape Spear and how the family coped with the terrific storms that shook their home and that made the seas around them rage. Tom goes to school in St. John and is visiting the Cantrell family to tell Ellen about school life. Ellen's parents want her to go to the girl's school there but Ellen herself loves her life on Cape Spear and doesn't want to leave.
Tom learns about the bravery of his uncle, aunt, and their children and then he sees them dealing with a crisis that is truly terrifying. One of the ships offshore is dragging its anchors and is coming ashore. The Salmah will surely end up on the rocks and if it does Ellen and her family will be needed to rescue and care for the sailors.
Based on the story of a real family who lived at Cape Spear in 1861, "At Ocean's Edge" is a thrilling read. The author skillfully takes us into the world and lives of the Cantrell family by combining tales from the history of Cape Spear and the story of Ellen's own reluctance to leave her harsh home. It is hard to imagine living in a time when there were no radios or other technology that would have made all the difference to the sailors who plied the waters around Newfoundland. Instead these remarkable people relied on their own courage skills, and determination to help seafarers in distress.
At the end of the book the reader will find an interesting author's note which discusses the historical nature of her book.
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