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Heroes of the Surf

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  121 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Adventure on the high seas!

WHAM! The Pliny jolts as if Black Beard himself has just punched her in the belly. Pedro and I slide and smack--bang--into the bulwark.

"We're grounded," cries the first mate. "We've hit a shoal!"

In May of 1882, a large steamship ran aground off the coast of New Jersey. Elisa Carbone imagines what it was like for two boys on that ship: waking u
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published May 10th 2012 by Viking Books for Young Readers (first published April 12th 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 200)
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Jim Erekson
Historical fiction can be really great when it's based on simple primary sources. I enjoyed how Carbone drew the story through the eyes of the two boys, and the plain thread of their play narrative showed the character transformation that the story's event brought.

The figures in the illustrations remind me of Hergé's Tintin drawings, although the pen work was looser and more dynamic. Much of the sense of movement was achieved through the cross-hatching and other line work that would otherwise b
It was April 1882 when two boys aboard the steamship Pliny pretend to be pirates getting ready to board the ship and steal its treasure. But their shipboard games turn a bit scary once they fall asleep, and something bad does happen to the ship. When their ship, bound from South America to New York City flounders unexpectedly due to bad weather, members of the U.S. Life-Saving Service save the lives of the passengers and crew. At first, the boys think they're being attacked by pirates, but this ...more
Historical fiction picture book, based on a true story of a shipwreck off the coast of New Jersey in 1882 in which everyone was rescued. Told from the point of view of a boy on the ship, very effective technique. Pen and ink illustrations (I think) capture the excitement well. Love the use of color, full page spreads during the height of the storm. (I wish all picture books included info on medium/technique of illustration).

2 Starred Reviews: Kirkus and Booklist

"...Carpenter’s pictures beautif
Lu Benke
I found myself swept up with the drama of the text and illustrations in this book. The true story of a steamship running aground in a storm and the passengers being saved by the group of rescuers from the shore is full of visual and verbal excitement. I loved the almost etching-like illustration of the ship on the water at the beginning of the story. The striped-effect of the surface of the ocean reappears with variation throughout the book for a very nice reminder. The tableaus on the two-paged ...more
Aug 28, 2013 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a very dramatic and engaging story about a shipwreck off the coast of New Jersey and the people who came to the aid of those on board. The narrative isn't very long and the illustrations capture the essence of the panic of a sinking ship and the relief of being saved. I had never really heard of the U.S. Life-Saving Service and I was fascinated to learn that they were the precursor organization to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Overall, we really enjoyed reading this tale. I liked that the fictio
This story based on the reimagining of and 1882 steamship puts two young boys at the center of a high seas adventure. While the story has fictional characters and plot points, the author is careful to include historical information and detailed explanations of ship parts--a story geared for those young readers who hold an interest in pirate stories because the element of the sea and a ship are here. This book would fit well into a unit on historical fiction, and would students identify parts of ...more
I am marking this as a "drop" for the RICBA commitee. It didn't provide enough historical context to make me, as an adult, care about the origins of the Coast Guard. If it had explained what the Coast Guard does a bit more, it might interest readers more. I also thought that the illustrations were not reflective of a "rescue story". Very lackluster pictures for such an intense story.
In the nineteenth century, the Pliny is on its way from South America to New York City. Aboard the ship are many families, including two young friends Anthony and Pedro, who spend the journey pretending to be pirates. The boys are having a grand time together until one night when a storm hits. Even the lifeboats are of no use, as they are smashed by the growing waves. The night goes silent when the engines stop working, leaving them at the mercy of the storm. Then the captain sends up a distress ...more
Judy Desetti
This story is set in 1882 and based on true life events, which is related in the author notes at the end. In this story two boys are friends and pretend to fight off pirates. Then one night their boat encounters trouble and hits a rocky patch off shore. Fortunately they are able to get help from a life saving station. This would be good to help kids understand more about lighthouses and the rescue work done in the late 1800 and early 1900's.

Christine Turner
Adventure on the high seas! WHAM! The Pliny jolts as if Black Beard himself has just punched her in the belly. Pedro and I slide and smack-- bang --into the bulwark. "We're grounded," cries the first mate. "We've hit a shoal!" In May of 1882, a large steamship ran aground off the coast of New Jersey. Elisa Carbone imagines what it was like for two boys on that ship: waking up in the middle of the night, waves crashing over the side, the storm too big to lower the lifeboats. And then the flashing ...more
The first time I read this book, I wasn't blown away, but I liked it much more upon the second reading. The artwork is terrific - conveying the excitement of travel on the sea AND the danger. And it's an action story that would have a lot of appeal to kids. And those who like to learn more once a story is done could investigate more about the modern Coast Guard...
An adventure story that had moments of excitement and other moments of boredom. What this book does well is the importance of the U.S. coast guard and the wonderful things it does to keep people safe.
Recommended for elementary students (K-5). This would be a wonderful tool to introduce The Storm Warriors novel by the same author.
It was refreshing to read a picture book that showcases real change within its pages. Too often picture books become snippets in time, rather than a journey. What stole the show for me, however, were the illustrations by Nancy Carpenter; especially those of the water. I also appreciated the back matter that was included; further information on the passengers and on the history of the Coast Guard. This was very well researched and sourced. It was fun to read on top of that!
Kelsey Bates
Based on the true story of the rescue of a steamship that runs aground. Illustrations are decent with lots of text. Best for early school age children.
Picture book about a ship (Pliny) running aground in 1882 and how its passengers were rescued. A read-aloud to appeal to boys. Launch pad for talk/research into ships, sailing, dangers, rescues ...

Told from point of view of one of the boys on board, child-like tone, therefore. Could use it as a launch pad to talk about POV ... what would other people involved have been thinking/concerned about?

Bold illustrations. Historical fiction read-aloud for school age.
This book is a great way to learn about the beginnings of the Coast Guard. Told from the viewpoint of a little boy on a ship you can’t help but be drawn into the story. I gave this book 5/5 stars. I thought the illustrations, although a bit muted in color, were well drawn and really helped you see the story being told. I think any young boy would enjoy reading this and any child who likes boats, rescues or the Coast Guard.
Holly Thompson
I was enthralled! I couldn't wait to see what happened to Anthony, Pedro, and the other people on board the Pliny ship. The drawings were exquisite and the fact that it is based on a true story in the 1800's made me even more interested. I would love to recommend this book to picture book readers since the story is suspenseful, and there are longer paragraphs on each page. Historical fiction for second third and fourth graders.
An imagined story, though based on a true event, that details the plight of a ship that runs aground and the United States Life-Saving Service (USLSS) that comes to the rescue (the USLSS was a precursor to the Coast Guard).

The story is told through the eyes of two young boys who spend their days at sea playing pirates. Illustrations detail the dramatic events of a journey that doesn't go as planned.
Cathy Blackler
Carpenter's strong, period illustrations enhance Carbone's tale of pirates & danger on the high seas. Based on the wreck of the Pliny off the Atlantic Coast in 1882, the story regales the work of the US Life Saving Service. Which, combined with the Revenue Cutter Service, became the US Coast Guard in 1915. Carbone's text, full of descriptive language would serve well as a mentor text.
Bought this book for a pirate/sea adventuring loving 4 year old after reading some great reviews. I think we are both underwhelmed by it. Yes, there is a good sense of drama, but the story is a little weak and the narration is a tad awkward. For some reason am also irked that narrator refers to his sister throughout the book as "Sis".
Abby Johnson
An imagined story based on a true event, this book tells about brave members of the Life-Saving Service who watched the coast during rough weather, saving people aboard the British steamship Pliny when it ran aground off the coast of New Jersey. The Life-Saving Service was a precursor to today's Coast Guard.
When the huge steamship on which they are traveling runs aground off the New Jersey coast in 1882, two boys and their families are among the passengers dramatically rescued by members of the U.S. Life Saving Service. Includes notes about the event on which the story is based.
I really enjoyed reading this picture book based on a real event that happened in 1882, concerning a ship that needed aid not far from shore off the coast of New Jersey. Fun facts and information about the origins of what is now known as The Coast Guard.
Historical Fiction - 1882. Based on a true story. The United States Life-Saving Service (later combined with Revenue Cutter Service to become the US Coast guard).

Use in classroom.
Envisioning, metaphor/simile, historical fiction, immigrants,
Each time I read a nonfiction picture book with the combination of research, engaging writing and beautifully rendered illustrations I feel so fortunate for readers everywhere. We are so lucky.

My full review:
Karen Arendt
Exciting story of a ship rescued off the shore of New Jersey in 1832. Life-Saving Service stations had been shut down for the summer just before this ship ran aground, but some rescue men kept watch because of poor weather.
Historial fiction story about a ship that would have lost all the crew and passengers had it not been for the heroes of the surf and the rescue line that was sent from shore to the boat to get everyone on board to safety.
Burbank Library Children's Department
Based on true events, Carbone spins an historical adventure kids will be sure to love! It was even reviewed by the NY Times

Sharon Lawler
Fictional account of the 1882 rescue of the storm swamped steamer, "Pliny", by the US Life Saving Service., which was combined with the Revenue Cutter Service in 1915, to become the US Coast Guard.
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