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True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Orchard Books, 1990
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The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

An ocean voyage of unimaginable consequences …

Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.

Behind the Book

Avi writes: Consider my book, The Man Who was Poe. On page 139 of the paperback edition, one of the characters, Captain Elias, says to Edmund, the boy hero of that book, “Now, Master Edmund, if you’ve time to hear a good yarn, I’ve one for you. You see, the Lady Liberty had a sister ship. Seahawk, her name was—” Captain Elias’ yarn was, of course, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, the Seahawk being the ship in which Charlotte’s story takes place. How did this happen? As I was writing the book about Edgar Allan Poe, since he invented mystery stories, I was thinking about them a lot.

His Murders in the Rue Morgue is said to be not only the first mystery story, it came to be known as a “locked-room mystery.” That’s to say, something happens in a locked room that—because the room was locked—defies explanation. As I worked on the Poe book, I began to think: what could be more of a “locked room” than a ship in the middle of the ocean? That was the origin of True Confessions, and so it appears in the Poe book because that’s what I was thinking at the time. Now of course, as I wrote True Confessions it evolved into something quite beyond a mystery. But, if you read the book carefully, you can see there is an element of a murder mystery there. And that’s the way it began—in another book!

As for the title, when I thought of it, I assumed it would not work because there must be a million books with a similar title. But when I checked, to my amazement, there was not one. Happy to grab it.

Awards and Honors

Newbery Honor Book, 1991
Horn Book-Boston Globe Award, 1991
Association of Library Service--100 Books Kids Should Read, 2000
SLJ 100 Most Significant Children’s Books of the 20th  Century, 2000
Massachusetts Children’s Choice Award, 1996
Florida Young Reader’s Award, 1994
Utah, YA Award, 1994
ALA Notable, 1991
ALA Notable Recording (Recorded Books, Inc.) 1992
Best Books for Young Adults 1991, YASD
Booklist Editors’ Choice 1990
Fanfare 1991, Horn Book
School Library Journal Best Books, 1990
New York Public Library Best Books for Teens, 1990
NCTE Notable Children's Trade Book in the Language Arts, 1991
Lopez Memorial Foundation Award, 1990
Child Study Association Best Books of 1990
IRA Children’s Choice, 1990
Library of Congress 100 Books for Children, 1991
English Journal’s Honor List, 1991
Booklist, 1990, starred review
Horn Book, 1991, starred review
School Library Journal, 1990, starred review
Kirkus Reviews, 1990, starred review


“On a long, grueling journey from England to Rhode Island in 1802, a 12-year-old changes from a prim and proper girl to a swashbuckling mate of a mutinous crew and is accused of murder by the captain. Awash with shipboard activity, intense feelings, and a keen sense of time and place, the story is a throwback to good old-fashioned adventure yarns on the high seas .… A breathtaking seafaring adventure.” (School Library Journal)

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