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Murder Afloat

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  74 ratings  ·  25 reviews

Benjamin Franklin Orville is a boy who wants for nothing. He has his own pony, and he's caught the eye of the charming girl next door. He doesn't have a care in the world--until the day his mother sends him to market to get a chicken for dinner. Suddenly Benjy is caught up in a scuffle, kidnapped with a group of immigrants, and forced to work aboard the Ella Dawn--one of t
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Disney-Hyperion
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Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperMockingjay by Suzanne CollinsOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-GarciaCountdown by Deborah WilesMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Newbery 2011
122nd out of 134 books — 531 voters
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine PatersonThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca SteadFever 1793 by Laurie Halse AndersonThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Non-Fantasy Kids Through The Years # 2
50th out of 91 books — 8 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 131)
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Murder Afloat

You can now call me one of those "old people" that dislike new standards in our society. I don't think it appropriate for the fourteen year old main character in this novel to be involved in the murder of anyone, whether they be evil or not. Yet this happens in Murder Afloat. I have debated myself about this and continue to worry that young people may feel that murder may be justified in some circumstances. I can't condone that. Yet this book is an excellent book: it is well written
Kayla Farber
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. It started so abruptly, and I had a really hard time getting in to it. After a few chapters though, I got attached to Ben and other members of the crew. This is definitely a good pirate story for children, and probably historically accurate. It was exciting, and there were few dull moments throughout. The characters were well written and the descriptions of the scenery were perfect because the reader only knew what Ben knew, and though that ...more
Stacy Allbritton
Murder Afloat is a face-paced story of Ben Orville, a wealthy boy who is kidnapped and forced to work in slavish conditions aboard the oyster boat Ella Dawn. Ben's ordeal takes him on a journey of self-discovery, and this is where the heart of this story lies. He learns of his ability to perform demanding work and of his newfound appreciation for life on the water. When he is given the opportunity to return to his old life, he must make a decision-embrace his new life as a young oysterman or ret ...more
The lure of adventure on the high seas reenters our consciousness with this tale of kidnapping and piratical treachery, coming via the pen of respected Newbery Honor author Jane Leslie Conly, daughter of the great Robert C. O'Brien (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH). Ms. Conly apparently came across an old newspaper article at a friend's house several years ago, an article that told the basic story of a boy who had been kidnapped by oyster boaters as cheap illegal labor to help them make their ...more
Margo Tanenbaum
Benjamin has a happy life in 19th century Baltimore in his affluent family, with his own pony, and no worries other than planning a picnic with his pretty neighbor Jane. That is, until he is grabbed with a group of German immigrants and forced to work as part of the crew on the Ella Dawn, a decrepit oyster boat. The Captain, who rarely surfaces, is a cruel drunk, and the first mate, Plum, runs the ship with a heavy hand. They dub Ben "Little Gentleman" and laugh when he tells them his father is ...more
I may have been surprised to really like this, but I did. I chose it because the author is from Baltimore and because the idea came from an actual news article from an ancient Crisfield newspaper. Crisfield is the destination of the children in Homecoming, one of my favorite books and a place worthy of pilgrimage for that reason. I had no real hopes for the book though - it is not easy to write believable, plausible historical fiction and perhaps harder to do so for young adults. Perhaps I am mo ...more
Miss Amanda
gr 5-8 164 pgs

Baltimore, MD, 1868. 14 year old Benjamin is kidnapped off the street and forced to work on the Ella Dawn harvesting oysters. Harvesting oysters is horrible work, so hard that no one volunteers to do it no matter how much the pay. As a result, ship captains kidnap men, usually immigrants, to work for them. Benjamin is determined to survive and somehow make his way home!

Aptly named. Lots of murder

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Souther
Benjamin's life is relatively care-free until he is kidnapped from the streets of Baltimore and forced to work on an oyster boat in the Chesapeake Bay. The work is so difficult, dangerous, and cold in the 1880s that few will do it for any money, so some captains shanghai their crews, usually new immigrants they think no one will miss. Benjamin's capture was a mistake but it's too much trouble to send him back. They put him to work and if he doesn't keep up, he won't get fed, and he may well disa ...more
Janet Riegel
fast read boy kidnapped forced to work on an oyster ship - plot driven
Ann Dahlheim
Could not put it down. Read in one sitting! Fascinating novel of set during the Oyster Wars on the Chesapeake Bay. Ben, 14, is kidnapped from his middle class Baltimore neighborhood and enslaved to work on board a oystering vessel. Descriptive of the work and times. Many details about the ship, parts of the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore. SHort Chpaters would, I think, hold the interest of a 4-6 grade reader. Great for Maryland State history I will order for the library.
Excellent little book! I can see why the author is a Newberry honoree. I was completely taken out to sea with the story and almost felt like I got the saltwater in my veins too. Lots of adventure for Ben and his German shipmates. This book also made me hungry for oysters! There were a few mature themes in the book, and I don't think it should've been filed in the children's section at the library, but I'm so glad I stumbled upon it.
I didn't realize that immigrants newly arrived in Baltimore (probably other cities as well) were often kidnapped to work on oyster vessels in the late 1800s. It was dangerous and dirty work that no one wanted to do, but it paid the owners of the oyster businesses well. This book tells the story of a 16 year old American boy who is accidentally kidnapped with some German immigrants and forced to work for over a year on an oyster boat.
Ms. McC
An adventure story...Benjamen Franklin Orville is kidnapped from his comfortable life in Baltimore in the late 1900s. He is sent to work on a dilapidated oyster vessel. It is a tough life4 and an almost certain death trap. He must escape and find his way back to his family. The book is based on actual events and is a DCF nominee for 2011-2012.
This book depicts the rough life of the oystermen on the Chesapeake Bay in the late 1880s. The main character is a 14 year old boy, Benjamin Orville, who is accidentally kidnapped and thrown on an oyster boat along with several other German immigrants. It's a good piece of historical fiction for the 10-13 year old audience.
Another book club book---a very good story for kids--lots of action and hold onto your hat excitement. An eye opener of what life must have been like on the Chesapeake Bay during the 1800s---not easy! Not much to discuss though---pretty straight forward.
Who knew how oysters got to restaurants?? Not me. Because it is historical fiction based on fact, I think it can be sold to guys who are interested in adventure books. Also, a good recommendation for the historical fiction assignments.
Not bad. Historical fiction not my favorite genre. Still, good story. Not sure if kids will find the "lesson learned" quite as blatant as I did (or maybe I don't give them enough credit?). DCF 2011-2012.
Good book to use when studying the oyster industry in Baltimore, MD in the 1800's.
Interesting book for possible adult book discussions even though Juvenile Fiction.
Liked this.....will recommend for Rappin' Readers Book Club.....for 2012.
Feb 10, 2013 Teagan added it
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Enjoyable, if not very different from Charlotte Doyle and/or Slave Dancer.
historical fiction - kidnapped to work the oyster boats
Jono Jones
Gripping tale of hardship on the highs eas
John Dredla
John Dredla is currently reading it
Oct 28, 2015
Mariah marked it as to-read
Oct 06, 2015
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