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Monday, September 26, 2011

"Bet: Stowaway Daughter" -- Young Adult Novel Offers Exciting Look at Northwest History

Available exclusively as an eBook beginning Sept. 29, 2011

Like waves on the oceans he loves, Seattle author Joe Follansbee's non-fiction books and web projects keep coming, one after another, as more form on the horizon. But his latest, an eBook due for release on Thursday, September 29, launches this Northwest maritime history expert off on a voyage into new territory: young adult fiction. I have a feeling plenty of readers will want to come along.

The drama begins and ends in Seattle in 1932, during the Great Depression, but most of it takes place on a sailing ship in Alaska. The young protagonist, a thirteen-year-old Norwegian-American girl named Lisbet "Bet" Lindstrom shares her story of adventure, mystery, loyalty, and love in Follansbee's first novel, "Bet: Stowaway Daughter." Bet takes huge risks to uncover evidence that will exonerate her sea captain father, who was convicted and imprisoned for a crime she refuses to believe he committed.

Curious? You can download the first six chapters FREE through this link, to read on your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or  personal computer.

Follansbee's writing career includes countless freelance articles for print and online venues and five previous books, including three on media streaming. But most recently, maritime topics seem to captivate him. His book "Shipbuilders, Sea Captains, and Fishermen: The Story of the Schooner Wawona" is now a priceless treasure for Northwest maritime history fans, because the once beautiful three-masted Wawona ended up being demolished, in spite of the efforts of Follansbee and other preservationists. At least the extensive knowledge he gained enabled him to write detailed and technically correct descriptions of the ship on which young Bet stows away, making the story of her experiences all the more realistic.

The Schooner Wawona        Photo credit: Northwest Seaport

 After writing about the doomed schooner Wawona, Follansbee's desire to make people care about such things led to the creation of his fascinating website called Fyddeye. Next he wrote "The Fyddeye Guide to America's Maritime History" which is available as an eBook or print version. Now his desire to expose younger readers to their country's maritime heritage, combined with all he knows about ships, history, and girls (as the father of two daughters,) have come together in this work of historic fiction.

I especially like the fact that the story will carry young people on a journey back into a time they might know little about, and forward toward enlightenment and maturity through this book's positive and inspiring themes. By traveling in either direction, they are guaranteed to learn plenty. That would include an appreciation for the hard lives of commercial fishermen in those days and the character of Scandinavian immigrants who settled in large numbers in what is now the neighborhood of Ballard, in north Seattle, once a separate town.

Those who know Seattle and its history will appreciate the realistic sense of place and time. Those who know something about commercial sailing ships will appreciate the author's extensive and careful research into every facet of life and work for the brave souls who fished for cod at the end of the age of sail. According to Follansbee, the final fleet of such vessels still sailed from San Francisco and Seattle to fish the Bering Sea into the 1930s.

Cod Fisherman       Photo credit: Northwest Seaport
Having grown up around the water, I can say that he definitely puts the reader right on location, with all five senses stimulated. I swear I could smell the salt spray, hear every hiss of the water and creak of the wood, feel the deck pitching and see the canvas sails fill with wind. And that's not all. It contains plenty of conflict and suspense.

After a beginning paced to reflect the slow torture of awaiting her father's trial, the action picks up dramatically. Follansbee gave Bet both vulnerability and strength, as she walks the fine line of growing up in a hurry. I felt her fears, sadness, determination, growing confidence and ultimate joy. And he surrounds her with other interesting characters based on real people.

I rarely read books in the "YA" (young adult) genre, but I'm glad I was asked to review "Bet: Stowaway Daughter." 

So mark September 29 on your calendar. Treat a young person who know, or yourself, to a novel that will educate while it engages and entertains, offering vicarious experiences not soon forgotten. I'm sure this book will succeed in the marketplace in fresh new ways. Even thought it contains many scary scenes, including one with a huge and aggressive sea lion, you won't find a single vampire in it anywhere. Imagine that.

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