Book Review: Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling is a thin book (compared to Kipling’s more famous Jungle Book or Kim) set off America’s coast. Harvey Cheyne Jr. is a bratty 15-year-old son of a multi-millionaire tycoon on a cruise in the North Atlantic with his mom. He falls off the cruise ship at night as is rescued by a fishing vessel. No one on board the fishing ship believes Harvey’s story about how wealthy he is, so he is forced to earn his keep and work on the ship until they can return to harbor months later. 

This novel is a fantastic coming of age story that has you cheering for Harvey to prove his worth. He not only grows and changes but so do all the characters. Kipling’s superb writing makes even the ship and sea characters. I found myself fascinated with the boat’s detailed descriptions and the life and death process of catching cod.

I have seen this book on reading lists for elementary school children, but the accents are much too difficult for children that age to pronounce or even understand. I am not against young children reading accents in literature, but there are so many different regions and nationalities among these fishing crews that some of the accents took me a while to understand. Mix that with all the terminology of the boat’s equipment and the historical context, and many children won’t understand what they are reading. I recommend this for middle school, which is closer to Harvey’s age anyway. Many books, not all, have the main character around the age of the intended audience.

This book does deal with some serious issues, but I feel like a middle school student would be at an age to wrestle with all the book contains. I would highly recommend this book, but it is a challenging read for any age.