Currents (Hardcover)

By Jane Smolik

Charlesbridge, 9781580896481, 336pp.

Publication Date: September 8, 2015

List Price: 16.95*
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This middle-grade historical novel follows three young girls living very different lives who are connected by one bottle that makes two journeys across the ocean.

It's 1854 and eleven-year-old Bones is a slave on a Virginia plantation. When she finds her name in the slave-record book, she rips it out, rolls it up, and sets it free, corked inside a bottle alongside the carved peach pit heart her long-lost father made for her. Across the Atlantic on the Isle of Wight, motherless Lady Bess Kent and her sister discover Bones's bottle half-buried on the beach. Leaving Bones's name where it began and keeping the peach pit heart for herself, Bess hides her mother's pearl-encrusted cross necklace in the bottles so her scheming stepmother, Elsie, can't sell it off like she's done with other family heirlooms. When Harry, a local stonemason's son, takes the fall for Elsie's thefts, Bess works with her seafaring friend, Chap, to help him escape. She gives the bottle to Harry and tells him to sell the cross. Back across the Atlantic in Boston, Mary Margaret Casey and her father are at the docks when Mary Margaret spies something shiny. Her father fishes it out of the water, and they use the cross to pay for a much needed doctor's visit for Mary Margaret's ailing sister. As Bess did, Mary Margaret leaves Bones's name where it belongs. An epilogue returns briefly to each girl, completing the circle of the three unexpectedly interconnected lives.

About the Author

Jane Petrlik Smolik grew up in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. After earning a degree in psychology from the University of Miami, she moved to Boston where she later became a vice president of municipal bond trading for Tucker Anthony & R. L. Day. She is the author of In and Out of Portland With Children and The Great State of Maine Activity Book, both published through her own MidRun Press. She now splits her time between her home on Massachusetts's North Shore and her family cottage in Scarborough, Maine. When not researching and writing books, she keeps busy painting, gardening, reading, and spending time with her husband, their family, and Gracie, their Weimaraner.

Praise For Currents

Bones is a slave girl on a Virginia plantation; Lady Bess is the daughter of the Duke of Kent, living on the Isle of Wight; Mary Margaret is an Irish immigrant residing in Boston. When Bones finds her real name--Agnes May--written in her master's slave registry, she rips out the page and places it in a bottle that she sets free on the James River. Over the course of two years, this bottle travels back and forth across the Atlantic, linking the three girls together. Each girl's story is compelling in its own right, but together they weave a tapestry of intelligence, courage, and resourcefulness. Smolik's writing is beautiful, supported by research (sourced at the back of the book) that gives each girl's narrative a distinct tone and sense of place. This is a story about the inherent freedom of language and ideas. As such, the concept of lives linked so tenuously rings with authenticity despite the seeming implausibility of the bottle's journey.

Three strong-willed girls from dramatically different backgrounds connect through the contents of a bottle when currents carry it back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. Whipped for learning to read and write, 11-year-old Bones, a slave on a Virginia plantation in 1854, removes the entry with her name, birth date, and slave status from the plantation birth register. She tucks it into a sealed bottle with a small carved heart and tosses it into the James River, determined that part of her will "forever be free." By 1855 the bottle lands on the Isle of Wight, England, where 12-year-old Lady Bess discovers it, removes the heart, and adds her deceased mother's necklace to prevent her mercenary stepmother from stealing it. Eventually, 12-year-old Irish immigrant Mary Margaret retrieves the bottle from Boston's harbor in 1856 and uses Bess' necklace to help her sick sister. Authentic period detail and historic references lend realistic depth to Bones', Bess', and Mary Margaret's engaging individual stories, which, though told separately, are linked by the impact of the traveling bottle on their lives. An illustration of each heroine adds visual context. A carefully crafted, inspiring 19th-century tale of courage and chance, this novel is a natural for lovers of the past.
-Kirkus Reviews