DC By the Book

Children Testing Themselves
Captain Kate by Carolyn Reeder

DC By the Book covers literature for all ages. Readers need to know of two novels about protagonists who seek to prove themselves by taking on responsibility and risk beyond their years.

Captain Kate by Carolyn Reeder
 is about a family whose livelihood depends on their boat to haul coal along the C&O Canal from Cumberland, Md., to Georgetown. The story opens with 12-year-old Kate reeling from the death of her father and her mother's remarriage and pregnancy. The Civil War has began with her mother bedridden with complications from her pregnancy and her stepfather fighting for the Union.

Without her mother's knowledge, Kate decides and persuades her stepbrother to undergo the dangerous voyage down 184 miles of waterway. The novel is filled with descriptions of life along the waterway, encounters with Union and Rebel Soldiers, and the port of Georgetown.  Ms. Reeder is a master of characterization and Kate's interior journey of coming to terms with Seth and her new family is fully rendered. 

North by Donna Jo NapoliNorth by Donna Jo Napoli takes place in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, offering a contemporary portrait of an African-American family. Alvin, 12, is smarting from his overprotective mom, who prohibits him from exploring his neighborhood. His hero is explorer Matthew Henson, who is the subject of his Black History Month project. Alvin's idea is to travel to Bylot Island near the Arctic Circle and interview Henson's descendants.

Called a momma's boy by schoolmates, Alvin flees the nest when his mother wants him walked to school. With thought, skill and guts, Alvin reaches his far north destination. Napoli provides authentic descriptions of Inuit life and western influences as well as mapping the interior changes undergone by Alvin and his mom.

Captain Kate and North offer armchair travelers rich interior and outer journeys to ponder and map for both types of discovery.