Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hydrofoil Mystery - Book Review

Hydrofoil Mystery
by Eric Walters
Penguin 2003

This is a Young Adult Novel - and normally I would not be reading a YA book. But when you are stuck in a Childrens Hospital for several days (and you have finished the one book you did bring) you are frantic to read something, and you will take anything you can find to read. So I found this book in the small library of the emergency department. It turned out to be very good.

The year is 1915 and Canada is deeply involved in World War One. Billy McCracken is the main character. He is 15 years old and lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia with his mother and sister. His father is a sailor in the Navy. Billy has gotten involved with some rather bad characters in Halifax. These boys have taught Billy how to play and cheat at poker and how to stay out late. Once Billy was brought home by the police at 2am. His mother was deeply ashamed, so she does something desperate. She sends Billy off to Baddeck in Cape Breton to work for a man named Mr Bell.

Upon Billy's arrival at the home of Mr Bell, he meets the gardner (an old man with long white hair and a long white beard) and proceeds to tell the gardner that he thinks Mr Bell is "batty". The gardner eventually introduces himself to Billy as Alexander - "but you can call me Mr Bell."

Billy is given a job as a sheep herder. A very boring job. There is a special boat house down on the shoreline where an experimental hydrofoil is being built. Billy is desperate to see what it looks like, but it is not until one night when he saves the boat house from a fire, that he is moved to the boathouse to work there.

Over the next few weeks Billy prevents several more attacks on the boat house, and then one last attack on the main house where the Bells lived. Billy eventually discovers who the saboteur is, and learns that friends are a much safer bet than any poker game.

The author has taken a few liberties with the events of this time. Yes Bell was working on hydrofoils in 1915, but the HD-4 mentioned in this novel, did not set the first world speed record on water until 1919.

Otherwise - this is an excellent book about Alexander Graham Bell and his hydrofoils. One of the reasons I enjoyed this, is because I think Alexander Graham Bell was a brilliant inventor, and more importantly, he had connections to the Deaf community. His mother was deaf, as was his wife. Bell was also the founder of the National Geographic Society. I personally think that the National Geographic Magazine is the BEST educational magazine available today. I actually have a book about Bell and the founding of the NGS, which I must finish reading.

AGB and the Hydrofoils
Wikipedia Biography - Very detailed
Bell family Papers
AGB Cape Breton Historical Site

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