Review Blog

Apr 07 2009

The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow by A. J. McKinnon

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Louis Braille Audio, 2008. ISBN9781742122083
(Ages 12+ to adult) Warmly recommended.Your cheeks will ache, because of the wide, companionable smile that stays on your face while hearing of the singular adventures of A J McKinnon, on a Mirror dinghy, as he sails from his erstwhile school in North Wales, to the Black Sea. Armed with a pith helmet and the most unsquashable and determined optimism, McKinnon not only writes this very funny tale of his sailing adventure, but also reads it for Louis Braille Audio. Consequently, listening evokes the closest of relationships with a book that I have ever encountered.
McKinnon's curiosity, his innocence, his unstinting belief in himself and the humour with which he tells his story makes any listener a willing accomplice in the journey he embarks upon. He meets all sorts of people, and as he often says, his meetings are full of support, food and generosity. People willingly help him, whether it be by towing him along a stretch of water, or giving him a meal and warm bath or offering him a bed for the night, people are gracious in their hospitality to this rather odd man in his red sailed boat. At first he set out to sail from his old school at Ellesmere to the Severn River, a parting gesture to his six years at Ellesmere School, but he became so entranced with the journey he went on to Bristol. The lure of the voyage along the Bristol Channel proved too much and so on he went, sailing the Thames to London, then across the English Channel, and across Europe to the Black Sea.
Within the story are numerous nods to poets and writers who have written of anything to do with the sea and sailing, boats and adventures, rivers and canals, as quote after quote is used to augment McKinnon's tale. Each chapter begins with a quote that sent me scurrying to my poetry books, often a quote or nod to Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Graham or Lewis Carol, brought back memories of other books and readings, and all of this added an extra depth to an already engrossing read. McKinnon's voice, reading his own story, has just the right amount of whimsy to make the listener laugh out loud at his antics and daring.
Fran Knight

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