Revenge of The Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex (Adapted For Young Readers) by Nathaniel Philbrick (Paperback)
Grade 6-10-Philbrick has carefully adapted and abridged his adult title, In the Heart of the Sea (Viking, 2000). He tells the story of the Nantucket whaleship Essex, which sank in the Pacific in November 1820, after being deliberately rammed twice by an apparently enraged sperm whale. Three months later, five emaciated men were rescued from two small boats filled with the bones of their unlucky companions. The whale's attack on the Essex gave Herman Melville the idea for the climactic scene in Moby-Dick. The abridging is primarily accomplished by limiting descriptive passages and focusing more tightly on the narrative elements. However, sufficient description is retained to give readers an understanding of both whaling and life in Nantucket in the early 19th century. Other than these elisions, the text is largely unchanged from the original, although in a few places a simpler synonym replaces a more evocative word; likewise, in passages where he had assumed background knowledge, Philbrick skillfully supplies context and explanation. The lengthy section of notes following the text has been omitted, and the extensive bibliography has been replaced by a short, briefly annotated list of related reading. Useful maps, diagrams, and other illustrations have been retained. The story of the Essex crew is a compelling saga of desperation and survival that will appeal to young people. The grisly details of cannibalism necessary to the telling of the story may provoke shivers but should not give anyone nightmares. Walter Brown's Sea Disasters (HarperCollins, 1981) includes a brief chapter on the Essex, but there is nothing else for young readers on the subject. With this masterful adaptation, Philbrick's work fills a void.