And Then I Read: BLACK WATERS by Julia Jones

Cover illustration by Claudia Myatt

This is the fifth book in the “Strong Winds” series, which began as a trilogy and has continued, I expect, because readers like and buy them. I feel just the same. I was originally drawn to the series because of comparisons to the books about children and sailing by Arthur Ransome from the 1940s-50s era, which I love. They are comparable, but Jones’ books are written for today’s young readers, full of contemporary references, technology and problems. It took me a while to get used to that, but they are well-written suspense stories, mystery stories, and character stories. At times I felt there was not enough sailing, but in this book, that’s not the case. Sailing is a strong plot element throughout, and vital to the story.

Xanthe Ribiero is a character we’ve seen before, a young black girl who has learned to sail, and can do it so well that she has she has dreams of being an Olympic competitor. Those dreams seem to be dashed when she goes to a sailing training camp and becomes the target of racist harrassment that forces her to leave the camp. Instead, she agrees to become a sailing instructor for a group of kids staying on a former lightship a bit further up the eastern coast of England, but when she arrives at that job, she finds herself again the target for racism by her landlady and others, and has a hard time negotiating her role in the small town where she has been placed. All kinds of mysterious things are going on there, and before long Xanthe has made new friends and is uncovering the truth behind some of the mysteries and unjustices around her. The children she was hired to teach are fearful and lonely, cut off from their families, essentially living in a sort of witness protection program. Xanthe begins to pull them out of their shells with her sailing lessons, and that becomes her first success, but it also brings her to the notice of dangerous and hateful forces.

Highly recommended, but you might want to start with the first book in the series, “The Salt-Stained Book.” I think there is already a sixth book, which I look forward to reading.

Black Waters by Julia Jones

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