The Wanderer

by Sharon Creech (2000)

The Wanderer is our fourth title from Newbery-winning author Sharon Creech – and the first hand-picked for middle school audiences.

A Newbery nominee, The Wanderer tells the story of thirteen-year-old Sophie and her voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from America to England to visit her grandfather, Bompie.  It’s a story of adventure and survival, but even more, it’s a story for young teens about finding your place. It’s about things that divide and things that unite. And it’s about facing and conquering your fears.

Joining Sophie on this trip is quite the motley crew – three uncles and two cousins – all of whom are men. This makes Sophie feel like an outsider, but something about the sea captivates her and makes her feel right at home. While the men worry about Sophie’s ability to manage the rigors of the sea, it becomes clear that in other ways she’s better prepared than they are.

Sharon Creech unveils the story with dueling narration via the journal entries of Sophie and her cousin Cody. Cody also feels like an outsider on board this ship, and both learn about themselves and the people they love as they work together to survive their ocean voyage. Students that take this journey with Sophie and her family will be easily enthralled by the adventure that the sea brings, and the musings of the two narrators will bring up countless topics for shipboard – and classroom – discussion.

The Wanderer will be compelling to Middle Schools seeking a One School, One Book selection because it is premised on teen-agers in an awkward context, because it dexterously blends hands-on nautical action with subtle and realistic emotional tempests, and because it is delivered via Sharon Creech’s peerless prose.