I selected Red Sails to Capri by Ann Weil as a read-aloud for my boys (ages 6 and 8…with the three-year-old sometimes listening in) as a part of the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge. Red Sails to Capri was an honor book in 1953 (The same year as the last Newbery title I reviewed!).
Taking place in the early 19th century, Red Sails to Capri is a a story of adventure, mystery, and relationships. Michele is the 14-year-old son of inn keepers on the island of Capri. Three unexpected off-season visitors reach the island in a sailing ship with distinctive red sails and take up residence in his parents’ inn. One visitor is in search of beauty, one is in search of adventure, and the third wants solitude, room to think, and ultimately truth. Michele and his family aren’t exactly sure how their visitors will satisfy their desires, but they intend to work as hard as possible to keep their guests happy.
One thing leads to another and as Michele asks one visitor what this strange word “philosophy” means, a discussion breaks out that eventually turns to a cove that Monsieur Jacques, the guest in search of adventure, had seen on a sail around the island. Everyone on Capri is afraid of the cove. Stories have been passed down for years of horrible creatures or awful pirates that might dwell in the cove. Tales are told of people dying who tried to visit. No one really even dares mention the cove any longer for fear that bad luck will come just from talking about it.
Eventually, the truth must be sought out. The guests each find what they were looking for, and the locals finally learn to face their fears. This book seems to be very loosely based on a true story, at least from what I gathered in reading an article on wikipedia.
The boys and I enjoyed this book quite a bit, though it was a bit slow at the start while the relationships were developing. Once the action picked up a bit mid-way through the book, the boys were eager for me to read as much as I had time for each day. I found it a bit hard to read out loud, as their are many chunks of back and forth dialog that are not “attributed” to each speaker…like this:
“One could easily get in, Herre Nordstrom.”
“And why not out again?”
“That would depend on what you find inside the cave.”
“Find? What could I find?”
“Many things, perhaps.”
“There are many stories.”
“I am all ears, Angelo.”
While it is pretty obvious while you are reading which line belongs to which person, I am not so awesome at varying my voice between two men talking to make them sound distinctly different. I think the boys followed what was going on anyway, despite the lack I was perceiving in making the characters voices sound distinctly different from one another.
Overall, I recommend this title — I think it will especially appeal to boys who like stories with a bit of intrigue and adventure.